New Jersey employees in the private sector and many in the public sector are known as at-will employees. This means that employees may be fired at any time, for any reason, or for no reason. Employees, however, cannot be fired for retaliatory reason. New Jersey has expansive laws that protect employees from their employers’ retaliatory conduct, including termination.
Employers can retaliate against employees in many different forms. Employers can retaliate against employees through harassment. For example, employers may try to reprimand, demote, or pass over for promotions employees who raise certain complaints or file certain claims. Another form of retaliation is firing an employee for engaging in certain activity.
However, not every termination or reprimand allows employees to have an actionable claim against employers. Instead, employees must engage in certain protected activity and the retaliatory conduct must be the motivation for the employees’ protected activity.
New Jersey’s Conscientious Employee Protection Act also known as New Jersey ‘s “Whistleblower” law makes it illegal for employers to retaliate against employees who object to or refuse to participate in an activity which the employees reasonably believe are illegal, criminal or fraudulent, or violates a clear mandate of public policy relating to public health, safety, welfare or the environment. Employers which retaliate against employees who object or refuse to participate in this type of activity can subject themselves to a lawsuit and significant consequences.
The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”) was amended on August 28, 2013, also includes an anti-retaliation provision, which prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who discusses compensation with a current or former employees. Additionally, the LAD now protects employees from retaliation by their employers if the employee asks current or former employees for information about that person’s job title, specific occupation, rate of compensation, race, gender, ethnicity, military status or national origin, if the purpose of the inquiry it to investigate potential discriminatory treatment regarding compensation, including pay, bonuses, or benefits. New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination also makes it illegal to retaliate against employees who object to discrimination or assist others who do.
New Jersey law also protects employees from retaliation if they pursue, inquire, or exercise their rights under the Workers’ Compensation Law. Therefore, if an employer retaliates against an employee the employee may be entitled to compensation which can include economic and compensatory damages, including pain and suffering.
Victims of retaliation should immediately report the conduct to a manager, supervisor, or human resources to allow the employer to take appropriate remedial measures. Employers which fail to take remedial measures may be subject to a lawsuit.
Victims of retaliation may obtain various forms of relief. For example, employee who is fired may recover past and future lost wages, damages for emotional distress, and punitive damages, and have the employer pay attorneys fees.
We regularly provide counseling to employees and help prosecute allegations of violations of New Jersey’s employment laws and prosecute claims for wrongful termination or other retaliation.
McLaughlin & Nardi’s employment attorneys regularly represent employees in federal and state court, in mediation and in arbitration, and litigating employment disputes. To learn more about what we can do to help, please e-mail us or call (973) 890-0004.