Myriad Federal and State statutes and regulations provide considerable protection to employees in the State of New Jersey. While an employee working within the State of New Jersey remains an employee at will, unless a contract has been signed with an employer, that status does not end the legal inquiry when evaluating the fairness or legality of a termination. Federal anti-discrimination statutes apply to New Jersey employees, as does New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination, which mimics the claims and remedies provided for under Federal anti-discrimination laws. Beyond the anti-discrimination laws and regulations, Federal and State laws also protect whistle blowers. Handbooks used by employers and distributed to employees can also provide the basis for expressed or implied contract claims when an employee if terminated in a manner that differs from handbook procedures. Federal and State wage and hour laws can be land mines for unwary employers who fail to appreciate the significant requirements imposed by these laws. In many instances, the aforementioned statutes provide for attorneys’ fees for victorious plaintiffs.
Perhaps the most perplexing circumstances involve those in which an employer is confronted with a disabled or injured employee. From Worker’s Compensation laws to Federal and State laws protecting against discrimination against disabled persons to requirements to accommodate persons with injuries or disabilities, deciding upon a course of conduct can be daunting. A misstep can provide a factual basis for the filing of a legal action. Once these legal actions are filed, the prospect of an award of attorneys’ fees can drive the course of litigation as much as the actual damages alleged by the aggrieved employee.
Given the complex legal framework governing the employer/employee relationship in New Jersey, Sean F. Byrnes and Loryn Lawson have dedicated a significant portion of their practices to advising clients with respect to their obligations in this area. And when an employee or former employee does bring a claim, we defend them vigorously. We also make ourselves available to provide training to all levels of employees on the pitfalls and minefields unique to the employer/employee relationship. Engaging in training and documenting it can provide a significant defense to a future harassment claim. If you or your business are interested in seeking the advice of our attorneys or retaining us to defend a wrongful termination harassment claim, please contact us.