Employers in New Jersey are prohibited from terminating employees in violation of a clear mandate of public policy. These cases are known as Pierce Claims, named for the State Supreme Court case, Pierce v. Ortho Pharmaceutical Corp. Because these claims are fact specific and difficult to prove, working with an experienced wrongful termination lawyer is essential.
If you believe your employer fired you in violation of a public policy, turn to Castronovo & McKinney, LLC. We have extensive experience negotiating and litigating wrongful termination claims and will work to protect your employment rights. Contact us today for a consultation.
What is Wrongful Termination in Violation of Public Policy?
Employment in New Jersey is “at-will,” meaning that employment may be terminated by either party with or without cause. However, employers cannot terminate employees in violation of a public policy. Such policies are found in legislation, administrative rules, regulations and decisions, and judicial decisions. In particular, potential sources of “clear mandates of public policy” include:
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII)
- The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD)
- The Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA) – the state’s whistleblower law
- The New Jersey Constitution
- New Jersey Civil Service statutes
- The Rules of Professional Conduct
An employee can pursue a wrongful termination claim when they are fired for raising issues about an employer’s conduct the employee reasonably believes violates a public policy. Notably, to assert a public policy violation, the policy must benefit the general public rather than a single employee or employer.
Understanding Violations of Public Policy Under New Jersey Law
Termination may violate public policy in New Jersey under the following circumstances:
- Firing an employee for refusing to participate in illegal activity
- Retaliating against an employee for objecting to an employer’s fraudulent practices
- Firing an employee for reporting an unsafe or dangerous work environment (whistleblower retaliation)
- Discharging an employee for serving on a jury
- Terminating an employee for exercising a legal right or participating in a community action (e.g. voting, military service)
- Firing an employee for participating in political activities outside the workplace
- Terminating an employee for filing a workers’ compensation claim
- Retaliating against an employee for complaining about wages
Unlike other wrongful termination claims, such as an employer breaching an employment contract, wrongful termination in violation of public policy is based on case law.
How To Prove Wrongful Termination in Violation of Public Policy
You must prove the following elements to prevail in a lawsuit alleging wrongful termination in violation of public policy:
- An employment relationship existed – To have a viable wrongful termination claim, you must show that an employer-employee relationship must have existed. Temporary, part-time, and full-time employees are eligible to file a claim; however, independent contractors cannot pursue a wrongful termination claim unless they were misclassified.
- Your employer terminated you – You cannot pursue a wrongful termination claim if you resign unless you were constructively discharged (forced to quit after your employer made the work environment unbearable).
- Improper motivation – A substantial motivating factor in your termination must be that it violated a public policy (e.g. a statute, regulation, or constitutional provision) that is firmly established and benefits the public at large.
- Damages – The termination must have caused you to suffer damages (e.g. lost wages, emotional harm).
Importantly, there is a two-year statute of limitations to bring a claim for wrongful termination in violation of public policy. The sooner you contact our office, the sooner we can start working on your claim.
Legal Remedies for Wrongful Termination in Violation of Public Policy
At Castronovo & McKinney, we have the skills and experience to protect your rights. Our wrongful termination attorneys will:
- Obtain and review your personnel file and performance reviews
- Interview witnesses, including your employer, co-workers, and supervisors
- Determining if your employer has a pattern of violating public policy
- Take over communications with your employer and their legal counsel
- Negotiate a fair and just settlement settlement
- File a wrongful termination lawsuit if necessary
Damages you may recover for wrongful termination in violation of public policy include:
- Lost wages – back pay and front pay
- The value of lost benefits (e.g. health insurance, vacation pay)
- Compensatory damages for emotional distress
- Reputational harm
- Attorney fees and court costs
Though taking legal action against your employer is not easy, we will provide you with powerful representation and help you stand up for your employment rights.
Contact Our Experienced New Jersey Wrongful Termination Attorneys
Being fired can turn your world upside down, but termination in violation of a public policy is illegal. We have a proven history of achieving positive outcomes through negotiation and litigation and will fight to win you just compensation in or out of the courtroom. Contact our office today to get started.
Castronovo & McKinney, LLC represents employees throughout New Jersey in wrongful termination cases having to deal with violations of public policy.