New Jersey courts have ruled that if a company has a progressive discipline procedure and promises in writing or orally that it will be followed (or performs it with absolute consistency over a reasonably long period), use of the procedure before termination may be considered “contractual” and thus be binding.
Courts may look at several factors to decide whether a policy constitutes a contract. These factors relate to a policy's provisions and the context of its preparation and distribution to employees (Witkowski v. Thomas J. Lipton, Inc., 136 N.J. 385 (1994)).
Specifically, courts may look at whether:
• The policy was pervasive and companywide;
• The pronouncements were an accurate representation of policy;
• The pronouncements were authorized to be made; and
• The employees had a reasonable expectation that the policy would apply to them (Gilbert v. Durand Glass Mfg. Co., 609 A.2d 517 ...