When you work on an at-will basis, your employer can fire you without giving you cause. You work at the will of the employer, without contractual or special rights to maintain your employment.
Job providers remain bound to workplace discrimination laws and other employment regulations. Those laws and regulations do not require your employer to provide you with a reason or cause for terminating your employment.
When you are let go from an at-will position, it does not necessarily mean that you did something wrong, but may instead mean that your employer needs to reduce costs.
How to Know When Your Employment is At-Will?
New Jersey is an at-will employment state. Virtually anyone who does not work in a position governed by an employment contract is an at-will employee.
If you work in a collective bargaining unit, then a contract determines your pay, work rights, and other important aspects of your employment. You also might have an individual work contract that lays out your rights and your employer’s.
Anyone who works with a contract in place is not working in an at-will position. Instead, your contract would detail any termination procedures that must be met to end your employment.
When your job is an at-will position, you will not have a contract in place. You also likely will sign a form that specifically addresses the at-will nature of your job. Signing the form affirms that you are aware that the job is at-will and could end at virtually any moment with no cause provided.
Implied and Express Contractual Exceptions
New Jersey law provides two exceptions to at-will employment law: are implied and express contracts.
An ‘implied contract’ exists when an employer has a formalized work manual. Whether it is a single page or an extensive number of pages, any formalized work manual amounts to an implied work contract.
The manual might indicate acceptable work clothing, grooming standards, or any pay scales. The work manual generally lists expectations and functions as a type of work contract.
An ‘express contract’ is more formal than an implied contract, and will list the conditions and terms of your employment. Those conditions and terms are the same that other workers receive and serve as a type of workplace contract.
Employer violations of implied or express work contracts might be subject to legal action.
State and Federal Anti-Discrimination Laws Still Apply
An at-will job does not mean your employer can be abusive or treat workers in a discriminatory manner. You and your coworkers are protected by state and federal anti-discrimination laws.
A worker who is a member of a protected class as defined by state or federal laws might have endured blatant discrimination while on the job. If the firing is an extension of that discrimination, that worker may have a strong case to make against the former employer.
A good example of a protected class would be a worker who was subjected to sexual harassment while employed. If the employer soon afterward fired that worker after a complaint was lodged about the harassment, a case for discrimination might be made.
Whenever the firing is a result of ongoing unlawful employment practices, such as discrimination, the employer might be held accountable.
Cherry Hill Employment Lawyers at Burnham Douglass Uphold Workers’ Rights
If you need to uphold your rights as a worker, the experienced Cherry Hill employment lawyers at Burnham Douglass can help. You can call 856-751-5505 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation at our law offices in Marlton and Northfield, New Jersey. We represent clients in New Jersey, Camden County, Burlington County, Atlantic County, Gloucester County, Mercer County, and throughout New Jersey.