Firefighters go to work every day knowing that at any moment they could be called to risk their lives to save the homes and lives of their neighbors.  This is why our employment attorneys aggressively fight for the rights of New Jersey’s firefighters.

Discrimination and Harassment Claims

Fire departments cannot discriminate or harass their employees because of their race, gender, religion, marital status, sexual orientation, domestic partnership or civil union status, pregnancy, gender identity or expression, ancestry, HIV related illnesses, mental or physical disability, genetic information, hereditary cellular or blood trait, or liability for military service.  We aggressively represent the matters of discrimination and harassment claims.

Whistleblower Protections

Fire departments, like all employers, cannot retaliate against their employees for “blowing the whistle.”  New Jersey's Conscientious Employee Protection Act, known as “CEPA,”  is widely regarded as the strongest "whistleblower" law in the nation.  CEPA protects firefighters and other department employees who refuse to participate in, object to, or disclose their employer’s conduct, policy or practice which they reasonably believe is illegal or violates a regulation, civil service or other laws, or a public policy concerning health or safety,  or which is fraudulent.  Their employers cannot retaliate against them in any form, whether firing, transfer, harassment or demotion.  Our employment attorneys represent all types of public employees in whistleblower retaliation claims.

Constitutional & Civil Rights Claims

New Jersey firefighters have constitutional and civil rights, which they do not lose when they put on their uniform.  In fact, they receive special civil rights and constitutional protections because they are employed by the government.

Due Process.  “Permanent” firefighters have a constitutionally protected right to due process before being disciplined.  This means they have the right to receive notice of any charges against them and the opportunity to defend themselves.  Departments also cannot treat their employees arbitrarily.
First Amendment.  Fire departments cannot retaliate because their firefighters spoke out on matters of public concern.
Equal Protection.  Departments cannot treat their employees differently from other similar employees, unless they can demonstrate a “legitimate” reason.
“Tenure” and Other Special Protections

Title 40A provides what is essentially “tenure” for New Jersey firefighters.  It provides that permanent paid firefighters cannot be fired, suspended, reduced in rank or fined for any reason other than “incapacity, misconduct, or disobedience of rules” established by the department’s management.   Political reasons cannot be a factor.  Before any discipline, they must receive written notice of the charges, a hearing, and time to prepare.  Appeals are available for both civil service and non-civil service firefighters.  They also receive special rights in reemployment after layoff, seniority protection, and hiring preferences for volunteer and federal firefighters.

Civil Service & Disciplinary Hearings

Many firefighters receive civil service protection.  Civil service was enacted to ensure that favoritism, politics and nepotism have no role in employment decisions.  The purpose of these protections is to ensure that employment decisions are based solely on merit so New Jersey have the best government workforce possible.  Firefighters in civil service jurisdictions receive additional protection in disciplinary matters.  There is a process for defending against all disciplinary actions, minor and major.  

Likewise, all civil service and non-civil service firefighters have the right to a hearing before their employers can impose final discipline.  There is a process for appeals after the hearing.

Wage and Hour Issues

Just like other employees, firefighters are entitled to overtime  (although while union contracts may be more generous, under federal law they receive overtime after 216 hours in a 28 day work period).  Fire departments cannot require their firefighters to work “off the clock,” or to work as both paid and volunteer firefighters.  Departments may not retaliate against their employees who object to overtime violations.  We represent government employers of all types in wage and hour litigation.

McLaughlin & Nardi’s New Jersey Firefighter Employment Attorneys

If your department or agency has violated your rights, e-mail us or call (973) 890-0004.  We fight for the rights of firefighters.

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