New Jersey Association of Justice
American Bar Association
National Employers Lawyers Association

Do I Have a Lawsuit for Unlawful Termination?

Do I Have a Lawsuit for Unlawful Termination?An employee has a lawsuit for an unlawful termination if he or she can prove that the reason for the termination was unlawful. In other words, an employee can hold his or her former employer legally liable for wrongful termination if the termination was made in violation of a federal, state or local law. Whether a termination of employment is unlawful in violation of federal, state or local law requires an extensive review and analysis of all the specific facts and circumstances by a competent employment lawyer who can determine the viability of one or more potential causes of action.

One of the first inquiries taken by an employment lawyer in determining whether a termination is unlawful is to gain an understanding of the employment relationship between the employer and the employee. Unless the employee has an employment contract or a collective bargaining agreement, chances are he or she will be considered an “at-will” employee. An “at-will” employee means he or she can be terminated by the employer for any reason or no reason at all, so long as the reason is not in violation of federal, state or local law. The ultimate determination of whether the reason for termination is unlawful depends on many different factors, including the relevant factual background of the termination and a complete and thorough analysis of an experienced employment lawyer of relevant federal, state and local employment laws.

The most common “unlawful” reasons for terminating the employment of an employee involve discrimination, retaliation or harassment. It is unlawful for an employer to deprive an employee of a privilege, term or condition of employment because of a protected trait. Protected traits include sex, sexual orientation, age, religion, national origin, disability, pregnancy and others. This means that an employer cannot terminate an employee because they are too old, no longer want to employ women in the #metoo era or do not want to provide a disabled employee a reasonable accommodation.

Retaliatory discharge is another claim of unlawful termination. There are many federal and state laws that provide whistleblowers with job protection against retaliation for engaging in protected activity at the workplace. But not all retaliation is unlawful. For retaliation to be considered unlawful, the employee must prove that he or she was terminated because they engaged in protected activity. Engaging in protected activity can include such things as making a reasonable and good faith complaint of discrimination, disclosing an unlawful business activity of the employer or participating in a sexual harassment investigation. Whether an employee has engaged in protected activity is often a complicated and fact-specific inquiry that requires the advice and counsel of a competent employment lawyer.

Another common claim of unlawful termination is when an employee must leave their employment because of a hostile work environment. Harassment is a form of employment discrimination when it is unwelcomed and based upon a protected trait such as sex, sexual orientation, race, religion, disability or national origin. A hostile work environment is created when the harassing conduct: (1) occurs because of an employee’s protected trait (2) becomes a condition of employment; and (3) is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person of the same protected class would consider intimidating, hostile or abusive.

There are many ways in which an employee can maintain a claim of unlawful termination of employment. If you believe you may have a claim for unlawful termination, it is imperative that you immediately seek advice and counsel from an experienced employment lawyer who can assess the facts of your employment termination and determine the viability of all legal claims.

DISCLAIMER: The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation.
Client Reviews
We had a wrongful termination issue combined with a denial of unemployment insurance. Chris Eibeler was our primary attorney. His partner Bob Smith also consulted and gave us good advice. They were both so kind, caring, and professional. They guided us though a very tough time and a positive outcome versus a prior employer. They were also able to reverse our denial of unemployment insurance. I cannot recommend Smith and Eibeler highly enough. The entire staff is very professional, personable, and caring. Tom Wilson
I went to Smith Eibeler LLC for a last minute unemployment matter. Chris, Diane and his staff were very professional and easy to talk to. They provided knowledgeable insight and also kept me in the loop with the what was happening. I would not hesitate to go to him again. John Jung
Chris Eibeler (and the whole team) is very knowledgeable in all aspects of employment/unemployment here in NJ. They break down the most difficult aspects of the law, which allows you to conceptualize and better understand the complexities of the NJ Labor & Employment system. Smith Eibeler should be your first call regarding any Employment, workforce, or Labor questions here in New Jersey. I highly recommend them. Brian Allen
I approached Chris Eibeler regarding an unemployment case in early 2016. Him and his staff are some of the most professional people I have ever dealt with. The process took a while, but his approach to hard questioning helped me win my case. He knows how to get the job done and I am glad I went to him. I would recommend him to anyone in the future who asks for a lawyer. Thank you Chris! Tim F.
I highly recommend the office of Smith Eibeler for employment related issues, particularly anything related to restrictive covenants or post-employment contracts. I found Smith Eibeler via the web and cannot believe how fortunate I am to have found them. My case was handled by Bob Smith who represented me in a potential lawsuit by my former employer for violation of a post-employment contract (not a restrictive covenant per se). Bob was professional, friendly, understanding, and above all extremely helpful. Bob helped me avoid a lawsuit and was extremely knowledgeable in this field. I was thoroughly impressed with his prowess. Hopefully I will never have a legal issue related to employment again, but if I do, I will not hesitate to retain Smith Eibeler again! Gavin Tully

Results may vary depending on your particular facts and legal circumstances.