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At-Will Employment in New Jersey and Pennsylvania: How It Works

July 29, 2022 At-Will Employment

There Are Still Situations Where It’s Unlawful to Fire You

In both Pennsylvania and New Jersey, all employees without a written contract specifying their length of employment are considered to be at will. This means that your employer can usually fire you for any reason or no stated reason at all, including without prior notice. You also have the freedom to leave at will, for any reason and without prior notice.

However, there are exceptions to this. State and federal laws must be followed when your employer makes a decision to fire you.

You’re Not At Will if You Have a Contract

If you have a contract that lays out the terms and duration of your employment, you can’t be considered “at will.” Your employer generally has to follow the guidelines laid out in the contract in order to fire you.

In both Pennsylvania and New Jersey, oral and implied contracts have also been upheld in court.

For instance, if your employment manual lays out conditions of employment, this may be seen as an implied contract that overrides at-will status—especially if there is no explicit statement that you are an at-will employee.

Exceptions to At-Will Employment

There are some reasons for firing that are unlawful because they go against laws at the state and federal level that protect employees’ rights. Some examples for unlawful reasons for firing an at-will employee include:

  • Discrimination based on age, sex, race, disability, national origin, or religion.
  • Retaliation for reporting illegal activity, whistleblowing, or testifying against your employer.
  • Refusing to follow an order to do something illegal.
  • Requesting a reasonable accommodation for a disability.
  • Taking leave that you are entitled to take under the Family and Medical Leave Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, or other statutes.
  • Taking time to participate in Jury Duty.
  • Retaliation for filing an unemployment or workers’ compensation claim.
  • Retaliation for asking questions about your pay, pay practices, or hours of work.
  • Talking with co-workers about the terms and conditions of your employment.
  • Retaliation for filing an internal complaint for workplace discrimination, harassment, or differential treatment.

What To Do if You Believe You’ve Been Fired Unlawfully

“At will” status doesn’t mean your employer has the right to fire you in violation of state or federal laws. If the reason for your firing goes against those statutes, then you may have recourse in court.

If you believe you’ve been fired unlawfully, a knowledgeable employment attorney can help—even if you’re an at-will employee. Your attorney can assess the situation, determine whether the law has been broken, and help you get recompense in court.

Call us at 267-273-1054 or email us at for a free, confidential consultation today. 

The information provided here does not constitute legal advice. It is intended for general purposes only. If you have questions about a specific legal issue, you should speak to an attorney.