If you get fired from your job, you may want a genuine reason for the termination. But your employer doesn't have to give you one.

Like nearly every other state in the nation, New Jersey runs an at-will system of employment. You can be let go with no warning, for any reason — or no reason at all — as long as the move doesn't violate some major exceptions, such as laws against discrimination.

"Employers can change the money, change the benefits, whatever. At-will employment allows you to do that," said Peter Frattinelli, a laywer in Voorhees for Archer, and chair of the firm's labor and employment law group.

Your at-will status is automatic unless your employer says otherwise. Chances are you won't be receiving a contract that spells out a minimum amount of time you'll be employed and at what rate.

"On top of that, most employers give you an employee handbook, and the handbook typically confirms that you're an at-will employee," Frattinelli said.

At-will employment also dictates that you can leave your job at any time for any reason. For example, you can't be sued by your former company because your untimely exit caused a business deal to fall through.

Common exceptions to at-will employment in NJ

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At-will employment does not apply if a worker is fired due to discrimination — one's race, gender, age or disability, for example.

The issue for workers, however, is that most employers would never reveal that it's someone's skin color or handicap that prompted the firing. A worker and their attorney may have to connect the dots if they want a legal leg to stand on.

Another common exception is termination as a result of retaliation. You can't be let go for asserting your workplace rights.

"To assert your rights, it can be as simple as privately speaking with human resources about how you are being treated, or it can be as strong as filing a complaint in court against your employer," according to the New Jersey Department of Labor & Workforce Development.

Public sector and unionized workers are typically not subject to at-will employment.

Dino Flammia is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com

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