My question involves labor and employment law for the state of: NJ
My position was terminated due to 'performance below standard' in November 2020. I worked for this company for close to 20 years. My area is IT, but last 5 years I formally was on business side of the company (not IT), doing mostly IT job, but specific for business. So it was easy to go to 'work from home' during COVID lockdown.
I got new manager in mid-2017, and problems started growing from end of 2019. In Feb 2020 I got first letter from the manager, stating examples of my 'performance below standard'. I had three such letters, with periods of about two months each to address the problems of my performance. I got good words from him at the end of August, but working till 1 - 2 am most days of the week in summer got toll on my health, and I 'gave up' in Sept - Oct, letting the performance to 'slip'.
My argument to the HR that the work was really intense during Feb - Nov, and that performance improvement period matched COVID lockdown and 'work from home' , and I had 5 members of the family 'locked down' with me in two bedroom apartment, making it difficult to focus during work day, got no effect on the decision to terminate.
Initially after the termination phone call, I was given no severance package, but then trying to prove to HR the termination was baseless, I got an offer of very few months of severance. I have few days to respond to the offer.
I started consulting attorneys in this area of labor and employment law, in details, only in last two days and will continue doing so.
The CEO of the company stated on Bloomberg and on Yahoo News that there will be no COVID-19 related layoffs in 2020. I was trying to argue to HR, that even though my case is not directly related, it's been affected indirectly, by not having an office environment, where I would be able to focus on my work. Over the years with the company I only had handful days when I worked from home. Nowadays, my son's school is closed during COVID pandemic and we, parents, decided against kindergarten for younger one, due to, obviously, the virus danger. (yes, most families are 'in same boat' in NJ nowadays).
I have successful years in the company prior to mid-2017, with good reviews.
I don't know if I should provide examples of my 'performance' here, but most of the prior managers from same company would not consider those situations as problematic. Also, one other prior-manager-of-mine I consulted with on those letters, told me I'm being framed with nonsense. Still, HR's main argument for termination are these records (managers letters).
To be honest, the value I provided, and the feedback I got from co-workers, - I'm shocked by the termination event. I was in the middle of several projects, with a couple of them quite important for the business area I was in. It feels like the HR saw the opportunity to get rid of me, say, due to age and years with the company, and they acted.
I've been told I have two years to start the case in the court. One way or me: me I should wait till more pandemic precedents in this employment law area gets adjudicated in the court system (NJ) and come back when I have better stance.
I would appreciate your opinion on what I should and can do in my situation ( position termination due to 'performance below standard' ).