New Jersey and New York are both “employment-at-will” states. Without a contract restricting termination (such as a collective bargaining agreement), an employer has the right to discharge an employee at any time for any reason. An employer may fire an employee for “no reason” – or even for a reason that might seem arbitrary and unfair — and the employee is equally free to quit at any time without being required to explain or defend that decision.
Exceptions to At Will Employment
There are a few exceptions to “employment-at-will” in New Jersey and New York. The most significant of these are laws which prohibit discrimination based upon race, creed, national origin, age, handicap, gender, sexual orientation or marital status. For physicians in New York, Public Health Law ‘ 2801-b provides protection of hospital privileges.
“It shall be an improper practice for the governing body of a hospital to . . . deny or withhold from a physician . . . staff membership or professional privileges in a hospital, or to exclude or expel a physician . . . from staff membership in a hospital or curtail, terminate or diminish in any way a physician’s . . . professional privileges in a hospital, without stating the reasons there for, or if the reasons stated are unrelated to standards of patient care, patient welfare, the objectives of the institution or the character or competency of the applicant.”
Employment is presumed to be at will. Though the employment relationship is still considered to be contractual, the “at will” relationship may be terminated at any time by either party. Parties may restrict the right to terminate either by providing that the employment is for a “definite term” or by limiting the circumstances under which the employer may terminate the employee (e.g., for “cause”).
To see some examples of employment law at work please take a look at Employment law questions