The events that took place on January 6, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol were jarring to many. Some of those made uncomfortable by what they saw were employers, who subsequently took action by firing employees and severing ties with contractors who were depicted participating in the event, according to news sources like CNN. This has caused many to wonder, can a New Jersey employer or business do that? The answer, as is the case with so many legal issues, is… it depends. For these reasons, it is best to get customized answers based on your specific situation from an experienced New Jersey employment attorney.
Perhaps the first thing to know is that there are a lot of situations where this type of employment action is legally permissible in New Jersey. New Jersey does not have a law that makes participants in political activity or a political group a protected class for purposes of discrimination law. So, if your job is something that fits within the law’s definition of “at-will employment” (which is most jobs), then, yes, chances are high that your employer can fire you.
There are, however, some important situations where that’s not the case. First, if your employment is subject to a collective bargaining agreement (CBA), then you’re not an at-will employee. Everyone from teachers to dock workers, who are members of unions, fit into this category. For a unionized worker, the answer to whether or not your employer can fire you for your political activities is contained within your union’s CBA with that employer. Some may allow this basis for termination, but many CBAs likely do not allow it. Your employer’s firing you anyway could constitute a violation of the CBA.