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Winning New Jersey coach files wrongful discharge claim

Can an employer fire you for a poor reason? New Jersey residents who don't have job security backed by a contract or some other formal job protection may be terminated at will. Employment at will means companies can fire workers for nearly any reason, unless the termination violates state or federal employment laws.

A man who graduated from Camden High School in 1988 returned to the school in 2011 to take a basketball coaching job. The coach led a losing team to two straight sectional victories but was suspended and fired before getting the chance to further the team's success. The former coach was puzzled about the firing and recently filed a lawsuit, in part, to understand why he was let go.

The complaint, filed last month, accuses the Camden school district, board members and high school administrators and directors with conspiracy, several violations of employment laws and defamation. The plaintiff, now teaching and coaching in a different school district, claimed his wrongful discharge at Camden went against public policy.

The 43-year-old plaintiff believes he was fired after taking part in an independent film about the basketball team, a documentary filmed during the coach's first season and aired on The Comcast Network, just before his firing. The film included an interview with the coach and also featured two defendants, the principal and athletic director. The school questioned the coach about the film in January 2013, just before it aired; the next month, he received a notice of suspension, followed by the April termination.

The former employee took legal action, after a letter to the school last May, requesting a reason for the dismissal, went unanswered. In addition to other compensation, the plaintiff is asking for consequential and punitive damages.

Wrongful terminations can be addressed through rightful legal actions. Consult with an attorney to understand whether you have a valid case and where your employment claim stands.

Source: The Inquirer, "Basketball: Former Camden coach Cetsh Byrd files lawsuit against district" Phil Anastasia, Mar. 06, 2014

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