Does New Jersey Require an Employee Dismissal Letter to Have a Reason for Termination?

by Ruth Mayhew; Updated September 26, 2017

New Jersey private-sector employers may exercise their rights under the employment at-will doctrine, meaning they can end the employment relationship at any time, with or without reason and with or without notice. However, many New Jersey employers adopt the practice of providing a discharged employee with a dismissal or termination letter that states the reason for which the employee was dismissed from his job, but New Jersey statutes don't require such a letter.

Termination Notice

When there exists an employment contract, an employer in New Jersey generally can't dismiss the employee without written notice to terminate the contract. In this case, and according to the terms and conditions of the employment contract, the employer must adhere to the terms and conditions of the employment contract to dismiss an employee. Employment contracts -- just like any other business contract -- usually are terminated in writing, and terminating an employment contract may require 30 to 60 days' advance notice. This is a case where intent to terminate the employment contract may serve as a form of a dismissal letter.

Employment At-Will

The employment at-will doctrine gives both New Jersey employers and employees the right to end the working relationship without reason or notice. With the exception of employment contracts and collective bargaining agreements, an organization can simply terminate an employee without so much as a conversation about the reason for the termination. Nevertheless, employers generally provide the employee with their reason for terminating the employee. In some instances, employers provide written notice of the termination, which is sometimes referred to as a dismissal or termination letter. In other states, the term "service letter" is used to describe the letter that contains the reason why the employee is being fired.

New Jersey Dismissal Letter

The New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development website clearly states that employers don't need to provide an employee with a dismissal letter or termination notice. Although not required, New Jersey employers that provide dismissal letters generally state the employee's hire and fire dates, the employee's position and the reason for termination. In addition, any payments to which the employee is entitled as a result of the termination are part of the dismissal letter. For instance, if the employee is entitled to a severance payment, wages due, continuation of benefits or other payments, the dismissal letter states all the conditions necessary to sever the employment relationship.

Dismissal Letter Purpose

A dismissal letter is not required in New Jersey; however, employers can protect their interests by providing the employee with such a letter upon termination. In cases where an employer plans to terminate instantly, the human resources department or the employee's manager prepares a letter to immediately hand over to the employee. In other instances, an employee's dismissal letter clearly states the reason for the termination. Upon receipt of the dismissal letter, witnesses to the termination meeting observe the employee's reaction or response to the letter's contents.

Employer Defense

Typically, when an employee accepts the termination letter and doesn't insist on corrections to the letter, that generally means the employee agrees to the contents of the letter. If the employee later decides to file a formal charge of wrongful termination, the dismissal letter and the employee's actual or implied acceptance can support the employer's defense of any wrongful termination claims.

About the Author

Ruth Mayhew began writing in 1985. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry" and "Human Resources Managers Appraisal Schemes." Mayhew earned senior professional human resources certification from the Human Resources Certification Institute and holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.