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Know your rights if you lose your job in New York or New Jersey

In New York or New Jersey, unless you have an employment contract, you are likely working “at will” for your employer. This means that they may fire you or let you go without a valid reason. However, there are both local and federal laws which protect employees from wrongful termination such as retaliation or discrimination. For example, there are whistleblower protection laws in place to protect an employee who reports illegal activity or unsafe working conditions to authorities. You also may not be fired for attempting to form a union with fellow employees. And an employer may not discriminate on the grounds of race, age, gender, national origin, disability, sex, or religion.

Even if you have an employment contract, you may still be working “at will.” It is important to fully understand the intricacies of your contract so you know where you stand with your employer. The contract may specify, for example, that you may be fired only for just cause.

If you are leaving a job, it is wise to protect yourself and your rights by documenting the conversation you’ve had with the superior or boss who is terminating your employment. You may also want to maintain a work journal with a log of your performance reviews, changes in salary, commendations and reprimands, and informal comments regarding your work activity. This information can help you if you believe you are wrongfully terminated.

 It is also wise to make certain you read and understand your employee handbook. This helps ensure that you and your employer are both aware of expectations. You must be cautious when collecting this information however, as if it is deemed confidential, you may make yourself vulnerable to a counter-suit and may affect your wrongful termination claim.

Source:, “Your Rights When Losing or Leaving a Job,” accessed on May 17, 2016

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