New Jersey Employees’ Rights to Unemployment
The purpose of New Jersey’s Unemployment Compensation Law is protecting people from the harsh effects of losing their jobs, and providing a safety cushion for this sudden loss of employment.
Most employees are “at will” employees. This means that there are no contractual terms of employment or specific requirements for termination. An employer in such a relationship can fire the employee for just about any reason as long as that reason is not discriminatory or retaliatory, i.e. in response to a valid objection by the employee to the legality of the employer’s conduct.
So, an employer can walk into work one day and decide to fire the first person he sees, no matter who that person is, and no matter how well that worker performs her job. In such a situation, although there is no “good” reason for that firing, it is not illegal. However, that employee is able to make a claim for unemployment compensation since her firing was done though no fault of the employee. After all, this is required insurance for which every employee pays.
In order to make a claim for unemployment compensation, the employee is required to have had at least 20 “base weeks” of earnings or have earned a certain minimum required dollar amount. These amounts may be periodically adjusted by the State to reflect changes in income rates, for instance taking into consideration the State’s hourly minimum wage. In 2012, this meant that, in order to qualify for unemployment compensation, the employee had to have worked for the employer for at least 20 weeks in which the employee earned $145.00 or more, or at least $7,300.