Although employment in New Jersey is “at will” by default, employers and workers can choose to negotiate the terms of their employment relationship.
Most employees in the state of New Jersey are “at will” employees by default. This means that either the employer or the employee may end the employment relationship at any time for any legal reason or no reason at all. An employer does not have to establish any sort of “reasonable cause” if it terminates an employee; neither party has to give notice or warning.
When you are hired at a job, you are usually given some sort of written memorialization of your job responsibilities, your rate of pay, and other terms of employment. Sometimes you may be given employee manual to review. Generally, these documents do not change an employee’s at-will status, and usually they include an explicit statement to that effect. However, sometimes these documents may give workers additional contractual rights. Employment contracts can be express or implied, written or oral, and they can even be created by the language in an employee handbook or manual. At The Mark Law Firm, our experienced employment law team will be able to review your employment paperwork, explain to you if you may have any contractual rights, and help pursue compensation as appropriate.
Employment Contracts and Restrictive Covenants
Employers may wish to enter into a written contract of employment with some employees that clearly defines performance expectations, compensation, and severance or termination details. For example, an employment contract may specify that an employee is guaranteed employment for a certain term or that the employee can be terminated only for good cause. Some employees may be asked to enter into restrictive covenants, such as nondisclosure, noncompetition, nonsolicitation, or intellectual property rights agreements.
Formal, written agreements can provide clear evidence of the contract and its terms, making it easier to enforce. Even written employment agreements, however, may be incomplete, inconsistent, or unenforceable. To enforce an employment contract, a court will look at factors such as whether the document contains a definite set of terms offering employment or benefits of employment, a specific duration, terms of compensation, and no “at-will” notification.
Employees often instinctively agree to the terms of an employment contract because they are under the impression that they must. In some instances, however, an employee has the right to negotiate the terms of the employment contract. In all cases, employees have the right to understand the terms and conditions to which they are asked to agree. An understanding of the contract terms and the possibility of negotiation is particularly important in protecting your rights in the event of an inherently unfair or possibly illegal contract.
Because employment contracts, their terms, and the situations that give rise to them can sometimes be complex or confusing, it may be in your best interest to contact an experienced employment attorney for help understanding how an employment contract may affect you, your job, and your legal rights. An attorney can help review and clarify a proposed employment contract, resolve any discrepancies or questionable provisions, and negotiate the most favorable terms for your situation.