LABOR & EMPLOYMENT LAW
Frequently Asked Questions
Unless you are a member of a labor union, or a protected employee by statute (e.g. civil service or federal employees), in many situations, the answer is YES. In New Jersey and several other states, employees are considered "at will." At-will employees are ones that can be fired at any time by their employers, for any reason or for no reason at all. Equally, at-will employees may quit at any time as they are no subject to any contractual or legal obligations to stay with a particular employer.
However, there are special exceptions to the "at-will" employment status:
"Good cause" normally exists when the employer has a realistic or legitimate business reason/basis for terminating the employee. Examples of a "good cause" basis are: layoffs for economic reasons; the employee has documented poor performance; the employee is found to have committed a crime which impacts his/her employment (stealing, preparing false documents or submitting false information to a governmental agency, or assaulting another employee or customer); or the employee violates a company policy such as engaging a in discriminatory activity or sexual harassment.
An implied contract is created when statements and actions of the employer, and circumstances of the employment relationship lead the employee to reasonable believe that he/she is no longer an employee "at-will" and that the employer must have "good cause" to fire the employee.
Examples of elements to determine an implied contract would include (but not limited to);
As indicated in the preceding FAQ answer, there are specific limitations on the effect of employee manuals. Additionally, if there evidence that the employee manual is honored in the breach (commonly disregarded or not followed) or there is evidence of an implied contract, that evidence may override the effect of the employee handbook/manual.
As indicated in the first FAQ, if you reasonably relied on the job offer and made changes based on the job offer, the employer may be liable for wrongful termination (though you never started) or breach of contract.
New Jersey and several states and the federal government have laws that prohibit employers from firing employees based on certain forms of action, such as discrimination, sexual harassment, retaliation, whistle blowing, or providing certain information to governmental authorities the company had a duty to provide, but did not provide. A firing based on any of these actions may entitle you to pursue legal action against the employer.
You are probably protected by union contract and if there was not a sufficient basis for your firing, you should immediately request your labor union to file a "grievance" against your employer. In New Jersey, you also may have the right to request a full hearing and you may have appeal rights, including to the Superior Court, the Public Employment Relations Commission, Department of Labor, or the Merit System Board of the Department of Personnel (in case of civil service employees).
Depending on the type of labor union, you may also proceed with a complaint to the National Labor Relations Commission.
Copyright © 2000-2009 by the Law Offices of John H. Rittley, L.L.C. All rights reserved. Revised: 10/18/09.
Take no action on the materials and information appearing in this Website without first consulting an attorney. None of the materials and information herein are offered as legal advice. They are for informational purposes only, and may be considered advertising under Rules of Professional Conduct §7.2. Materials and information appearing at this Website may only be reproduced in their entirety without modification and must include this Notice as written for the reader's personal use. Transmission or retransmission of the materials and information appearing at this Website including any Feedback is not intended to create and its receipt by the reader does not establish or constitute, an attorney-client relationship. An attorney-client relationship can only be created upon direct consultation and acceptance and execution of a written retainer agreement between our office and a client.
Send mail to
questions or comments about this web site.