As an Employee in NJ, Can You Be Terminated (Fired) Without Cause?

When you’re first hired as an employee, you have negotiated or agreed to the offer of employment made by your employer. Details like salary, other compensation, working hours, vacation, etc. are generally mutually understood between the employer and employee but other non-compensation details may not have been discussed or disclosed. An example is your legal status as an employee; are you an employee or independent contractor? What job security do you have? Under what circumstances can your job and your employment be terminated? Do you have rights to compensation if you are terminated or the job is eliminated? These are all fair questions deserving of a discussion and when feasible, an answer. Let’s start discussing the legal status of an employee.

What is Your Employment Status?

The employment “at-will doctrine” remains the rule of New Jersey employment law today. Absent a document (a/k/a employment contract) specifying the terms or duration of the employment relationship, under the common law, in New Jersey, an employment relationship is presumed to be terminable at will by either the employer or the employee at any time and for any reason, with or without notice or cause, unless prohibited by law or public policy.

Even where there is an employment contract, if it does not specify a period of time that the employment will last, the agreement is presumed to be of indefinite duration, and therefore, terminable at will by either party.

Thus, when employment in New Jersey is not for a definite term and there is no contractual or statutory restriction on the right of termination, an employer may lawfully discharge an employee whenever and for whatever cause – so long as that cause or reason is not discriminatory or against public policy. If in violation of the foregoing sentence, the employer is subject to legal redress.

As I mentioned earlier, there are some restrictions and limitations on employers and the employment “at will” doctrine in NJ. On this page, I intend to briefly discuss with you those exceptions to the “at-will doctrine” of NJ employment law because of unlawful discrimination. I will cover these topics and more later on in this website.

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 further in this website. You can locate these topics in the table of contents to the right.

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

Fredrick P. Niemann Esq.

As employment and labor lawyers, we have litigated numerous cases involving complex discrimination, fair housing, A.D.A., L.A.D., covenants not to compete and other labor employment relations claims.

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






Written by Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. of Hanlon Niemann & Wright, a New Jersey Employment Law Attorney

NJ Employment Law Attorney serving these New Jersey Counties:

Monmouth County, Ocean County, Essex County, Cape May County, Camden County, Mercer County, Middlesex County,
Bergen County, Morris County, Burlington County, Union County, Somerset County, Hudson County, Passaic County