Extracurricular: How Outside Actions Can Affect You At Work

Fortunately, most people are at least somewhat aware of their rights at work. Reporting discrimination or filing a claim are just two examples of behaviors that can be considered “protected actions” under New Jersey law.

But what about when you’re away from the workplace? Is a Facebook post really grounds for termination? What about participating in political activity? Surprisingly, the law is a little less clear when it comes to time off the clock.

Protected Status

Generally, the same “protected statuses” that are at the heart of NJ anti-discrimination law carry over away from the workplace. Activities related to personal characteristics like race, gender, sexual preference, or religion are not usually grounds for termination.

For instance, a weekend marriage to same-sex partner or attendance at a religious gathering would not be enough reason for an employer to fire you. In fact, if termination does occur, legal action against your employer may be a viable option.

“At Will” Employment

Though the status-related limits to termination are considerable, New Jersey is indeed an “at-will” state (albeit with some exceptions for contracted workers). This basically means that employers can fire you at any time, without reason and without cause. This means that Facebook statuses, Instagram posts, and other social media activities are fair game.

In some cases, an employer may choose to end your mutual relationship following an outside act on your part – however, under “at will” statutes, they are not required to disclose their reasoning.

Protected Activities

While employers are granted rather broad termination powers under the “at-will” system, there are specific protections under both state and federal law that can apply to situations away from the workplace.

               Federal Law

`Though an employer is permitted to limit political activity at work – i.e. banning flyers,                   posters etc. – they can’t prohibit discussions of workplace conditions either at work or away     from the workplace. Under the National Labor Relations Act, (NLRA)this means that even if         these condition discussions verge into wider political debates, it still is not a termination-       worthy behavior.

New Jersey Law

In large part, New Jersey follows the lead of federal law when it comes to “protected activities.”          Recently, though, New Jersey passed an official state amendment that offers a cover for one     specific act: smoking. Under the law, employers cannot terminate employment solely because        an employee smokes either at work or at away from work

Counsel You Can Trust

Knowing your rights at work is critical. You need to keep your job, your livelihood, and your piece of mind. To help protect yourself, you also need experienced legal guidance.

Attorney David H. Kaplan is a proven expert in matters of employment law. With over 30 years of experience in both litigation and settlement, David holds a strong passion for preserving the rights of workers.

To schedule a consultation or to find out more about New Jersey employment law, contact the office today.

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