Termination of Employment Because of Unlawful Discrimination

Wrongful Discharge and Termination of Employment

Before acting, call our wrongful discharge employment law attorneys for legal advice.

As earlier stated, at-will employees can be fired or terminated from employment for any reason or no reason at all. There are statutory exceptions to this rule, however. At-will employees cannot be fired because of their age, race, sex, religion, or disability, for taking a qualified medical leave, for objecting to a polygraph test, serving on a jury, for fulfilling military duties, or merely for having a criminal conviction. I address these topics later on in this website. You can read about these topics very generally on this page and much more thoroughly in the table of contents found on the right side of this page.

A Termination From Employment Cannot Be Against the Public Policy of New Jersey.

Even with at-will employees, employers are not permitted to terminate an employee(s) if the termination will violate an important public policy. Examples of impermissible termination include when an employee makes certain statements of public concern, seeks worker’s compensation or unemployment compensation, reports safety violations in the workplace, and refuses to engage in or commit a crime.

The examples listed above are not an all-inclusive list of grounds for wrongful termination. Many state laws, such as New Jersey’s Conscientious Employee Protection Act and Law Against Discrimination (LAD), provide far broader protections to at-will employees than exist under federal law.

The Law of Wrongful Termination and Discharge of Employment


New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination (LAD)

In addition to providing some of the same protections afforded under federal law, New Jersey’s LAD is a comprehensive civil rights statute that protects employees from discrimination based on some characteristics not protected under federal law. One important example is an employee’s sexual orientation. An employee’s rights and protections under the LAD are often greater than under federal law and those who feel they have been unfairly treated in an employment context should look closely at this statute.

As employment and labor lawyers, our firm has litigated numerous cases involving complex discrimination, fair housing, A.D.A., L.A.D., covenants not to compete and other labor and employment relations claims. Our firm served as lead NJ counsel in a multi-million dollar class action case involving hundreds of employees, a large international corporation and millions of dollars in damage claims.

Conscientious Employment Act, Also Known as Employee Whistleblower Protection

Many different federal and state laws protect employees who take action for violations occurring in the workplace.

New Jersey provides additional protection to employees under the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA). If you are an employer who may be facing a whistleblower claim or an employee who may have been unlawfully terminated, it is essential that you contact us immediately (if you are facing or considering legal action).

This is because many of the federal and New Jersey laws require the initiation of legal/administrative proceedings as early as 30 days to 180 days, depending on the statute being claimed.

NJ Employment Law and the Whistleblower Statute Video


Unlawful Sexual Harassment

There are basically two kinds of sexual harassment recognized by federal and New Jersey state law:

(1) Hostile-work environment – This kind of harassment occurs when an employer or agents of the employer (manager or non-manager) subject an employee to unwelcome sexual behavior (physical or verbal). A hostile work environment can exist if unwelcome conduct is severe and pervasive.

(2) Quid pro quo sexual harassment – This occurs when an employer (or agents of the employer) place terms and conditions of an employee’s continued employment on the return of sexual favors.

Sexual harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances, including but not limited to the following:

  • The victim does not have to be the person harassed but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.
  • Unlawful sexual harassment may occur without economic injury or termination of the victim from employment.
  • The victim, as well as the harasser, may be a woman or a man. The victim does not have to be of the opposite sex.
  • The harasser’s conduct must be unwelcome.

The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, an agent of the employer, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or a non-employee.

Are You the Victim of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?


Disability Discrimination

Discrimination Because of a Disability

Federal law defines a “disability” as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against disabled individuals in employment as well as in public services, public accommodations, and in public transportation.

The ADA prohibits employers from discriminating against qualified employees with disabilities in all aspects of employment including job applications, hiring, promotion, compensation, training, and discharge.

Employers must provide reasonable accommodations for a qualified individual with a disability if asked. The employer must also participate in a dialogue with the employee to help determine what, if any, reasonable accommodation is feasible for the employee.

Employers cannot ask a job applicant about the existence, nature, or severity of a disability. Applicants may be questioned about their ability to perform specific job functions. A job offer can be conditional on the results of a medical examination if the examination is required for all employees in similar jobs. Medical examinations of employees must be job-related and further the employer’s business needs.

Every case that involves the ADA is highly fact-specific and not all individuals are protected. The ADA only protects certain individuals with certain medical conditions. New Jersey law also protects individuals with disabilities, and much more protection is available than provided by the federal version of the ADA.

Have you been denied a reasonable accommodation, treated adversely because of your disability or because your employer believes you are disabled? If so, consult an experienced employment attorney at Hanlon Niemann & Wright to learn whether you may be protected.

Have a question or legal matter that requires the advice of a NJ employment law attorney? Then contact Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. at (855) 376-5291 or email him at fniemann@hnlawfirm.com to arrange for a low-cost consultation in our Freehold (Monmouth County) or at your place of business.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) in New Jersey Provides Broad Protections

State laws make it illegal for employers to make decisions that are motivated by an employee’s age. Federal law also limits age-related lawsuits to persons who are 40 years of age or older.

Many actions by an employer can indicate that age was a motivating factor in a decision that affected an employee or multiple employees. Often there are indications of age discrimination when an employee has been loyal and dedicated to an employer for a long period of time but is terminated or subjected to disparate age-related treatment alone or toward other older employees by a new supervisor or manager.

There are different legal standards and different levels of proof required depending on whether an employee is allegedly part of a reduction in force, actually terminated from employment, not hired, or subjected to other adverse actions while still employed. But one thing remains the same regardless of the type of adverse action that is premised upon an individual’s age, it is illegal.

Religious Discrimination

Employers may not be familiar with their obligations concerning an employee’s religion or religious practices. Under federal and newly enacted law in New Jersey, religion does not mean only mainstream or organized religions. Rather, an employee need only have a religious belief, common or uncommon in the community, which is sincerely held.

There are several basic religious issues recognized by federal law that employers need to understand and address.

(1) Purposeful or indifferent willingness to make a reasonable accommodation:

Once an employee notifies his or her employer that a bona fide religious belief conflicts with a job requirement, the employer must make reasonable efforts to accommodate the employee. An employer’s failure to participate in a negotiation process with the employee and/or fails to reasonably accommodate an employee may violate federal or New Jersey law. Most common accommodations sought by employees are certain days off or times off during the day (often for prayer breaks), not to have to shave, and to be permitted to wear religious garments.

(2) Religious harassment/disparate treatment:

It is generally illegal for employers and/or coworkers to discriminate, harass, or in any way alter the terms and conditions of an employee’s employment (including termination) because of an employee’s religious beliefs. Employees also cannot be forced to participate in religious activities.

Note that it is also unlawful to retaliate against an individual for opposing employment practices that discriminate based on religion or for filing a discrimination charge or participating in an investigation or case under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Family Medical Leave Act

Under federal law, most employers with 50 or more employees must provide eligible employees with 12 weeks of unpaid leave during a 12-month period for one or more of the following reasons:

  • For the birth and care of a newborn child of the employee
  • When an employee adopts a child
  • To care for an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent) with a serious health condition
  • When an employee suffers from a serious health condition, rendering that employee unable to work.

New Jersey has enacted a much more expansive Family Leave Act that applies to all employers, even those with just one employee.

Employers cannot terminate or retaliate against employees for taking Family Medical Leave. Employees must be reinstated to their previous position or an equivalent position upon returning from Family Medical Leave. There are some circumstances when an employee can take intermittent Family Medical Leave, working during the normal workweek.

Have a question or legal matter that requires the advice of a NJ employment law attorney? Then contact Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. at (855) 376-5291 or email him at fniemann@hnlawfirm.com to arrange for a low-cost consultation in our Freehold (Monmouth County) or at your place of business.

Fredrick P. Niemann Esq.