Federal and New Jersey laws protect military service members and veterans from wrongful termination due to status. If you have been denied unpaid time off for military service or fired without cause after returning from active duty, Castronovo & McKinney, LLC can help.
We believe your military service deserves respect in the workplace. If your employer fired you for the time you spent or will spend on active duty or because of your veteran status, you may have a strong wrongful termination case. Trust us to treat you with the dignity and respect you deserve and protect your rights. Contact us today for a consultation.
How Federal Laws Protect Military Employees Against Wrongful Termination
The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) forbids employers in New Jersey and around the country from discriminating against military employees, veterans, and those applying to the uniformed services.
The law applies to virtually all employers, regardless of the number of employees, and covers employees who are called to active duty or training in any branch of the military, including the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Commissioned Corps of the Public Health Service, Coast Guard, National Guard, and Reserves.
USERRA grants eligible employees several rights, including (1) the right to take unpaid leave (2) the right to be reinstated to their job with the same benefits and seniority, and (3) the right not to be fired without cause for a certain period of time. To be eligible, an employee must:
- Hold a civilian job
- Provide reasonable notice to the employer of leaving the job for military service
- Be gone for 5 years or less
- Obtain an honorable discharge
- Apply for reinstatement in a timely manner
The deadline for applying for reinstatement depends on the duration of the employee’s military service:
- Employees who serve 30 days or less must apply on the next scheduled workday
- Employees who serve 31 to 180 days must apply withing14 days after their service ends
- Employees who serve 181 days or more must apply within 90 days of the end of service
Employees returning from military service must be offered a job with the same pay, rank, and seniority unless business circumstances have changed so much that it is an impossible or unreasonable burden on the employer. Military employees are also entitled to any raises, promotions, or other benefits that would have been earned had they continued to work.
Temporary Job Protection For Service Members and Veterans
New Jersey is an at-will state for purposes of employment. This means employees can be fired with or without cause. Under USERRA however, employers cannot fire reinstated military employees for certain periods of time without cause:
- Employers cannot fire employees who serve 181 days or more without cause for one year
- Employers cannot fire employees who serve between 31 and 180 days without cause for 6 months
Termination with cause means a legitimate, business-related reason for the firing, such as a violation of company rules, stealing company property, or other misconduct.
In short, USERRA prohibits employers from discriminating against military service members and veterans regarding any term or condition of employment (e.g. hiring, compensating, training, promoting, firing). Moreover, employers cannot legally retaliate against employees who exercise their rights under USERRA.
New Jersey Law Prohibits Wrongful Termination Due to Military or Veteran Status
The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) permits employees to take unpaid leave for active service in the U.S. or state military. Employers must reinstate returning employees to the same or a similar position unless the employer’s circumstances have changed such that reinstatement is impossible or unreasonable.
If the same or a similar position is not possible, the employer must restore the employee to any available position that they request if they are qualified for the job. Employees must apply for reinstatement within 90 days of release from service. Employers are forbidden from firing reinstated employees without cause for one year after those employees return from military service.
How Our Firm Can Help
At Castronovo & McKinney, we have a well-deserved reputation as dedicated advocates of military service members and veterans. If your employer fired you without just cause after returning from service, you have a right to file a lawsuit to obtain compensation. Let our wrongful termination attorneys handle all the details of your claim. Damages we will fight for include:
- Lost wages
- Lost bonuses and vacation pay
- The value of lost benefits (e.g. health insurance)
- Reputational harm
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Attorney fees and court costs
While many wrongful termination claims result in negotiated settlements, we will take your case to trial if necessary. Rest assured, we will protect your rights in and out of the courtroom.
Contact Our Experienced New Jersey Wrongful Termination Attorney
Wrongful termination based on military and veteran status is illegal, but employers have the upper hand when making employment decisions. Our employment lawyers will level the playing field, hold your employer accountable, and get you the compensation you deserve. Contact our office today for a consultation.
Castronovo & McKinney, LLC represents military service members and veterans throughout New Jersey in wrongful termination claims.