Oral Employment Agreements in New Jersey

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In New Jersey, employment is at will unless the employee has a contract providing for different termination provisions. At-will employment means that an employee can quit at anytime for any reason, and the employer can terminate the employee's employment at anytime for any reason, with or without cause. (There are some exceptions to at-will employment. For example, an employer can't fire an employee for discriminatory reasons or in retaliation for reporting health and safety violations or other illegal activity.)

The at-will relationship can be changed by an employment contract that includes limits on the employer's right to fire and/or the employee's right to quit. In New Jersey, oral employment contracts are enforceable if the employee can prove (1) there was a definite, clear, oral promise of employment; (2) the promise of employment was made to the employee by a person who had the authority to make this promise and the authority to bind the employer; and (3) the employee acted in reliance upon this promise.

Oral employment agreements often occur when an employee receives an offer from a competitor, and the employer wants to give the employee a reason to stay. The employer may verbally offer certain benefits to convince the employee to reject the competitor's offer, including job security.

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