New York, like many other states, is an employment at will state. This means that an employer can fire you without cause—for the most part. There are exceptions to every rule. In some cases, employers use the “employment at will” excuse to discriminate against an employee. This is called wrongful termination and it is against the law.
Many employees are shocked to hear that they are being fired, especially after a glowing performance review or praise from a customer on a challenging project. But they think the employer’s action is legal because of New York’s employment at will status. However, there are situations in which your employer is in the wrong. If you believe your employer unfairly terminated you, it’s probably not your imagination. It’s possible it happened to you, so it’s important to understand what does and what does not constitute wrongful termination.
Wrongful Termination Checklist
Here is a list of situations that can be considered wrongful termination:
- You have a contract. Contract work requires that an employee be available for a specific length of time. Therefore, an employer should not suddenly fire you before your contract is up, unless there is a worthwhile reason to do so. For example, if you consistently failed to perform work duties, stole from the company or committed some other egregious crime, then the company would have legal grounds to fire you. So, if you have a contract, read it and understand your rights.
- You faced retaliation. If you file a workers’ compensation or disability claim and was fired soon after, your employer may be retaliating against you. Whistleblowers often face retaliation as well for reporting wrongdoing against employers. Retaliation is against the law.
- The employer discriminated against you. If you were suddenly fired because you told your boss you’re pregnant, you may have a solid wrongful termination case. Discrimination comes in other forms, though. Even though we are now in the 21st century, many people are still being fired based on their race, gender, and sexual orientation. This can be hard to prove.
- You legally took time off work. If you were fired for taking time off due to military service or jury duty, you may have a valid wrongful termination case.
- You engaged in protected concerted activity. What does this mean? It refers to discussing workplace situations with co-workers. This includes brainstorming ways to change working conditions. It does not mean venting to co-workers about your mean boss. You need to be actively working with others to create change in the company, so if your supervisor walks in on you bad mouthing him, you could get fired and the company would be within its legal rights.
Contact New York Employment Law Attorneys
Not all firings are legal. Some activities are protected by labor law, and if your employer violated these laws, you need to take action to hold the company liable.
If you believe your firing was illegal, contact a lawyer to determine your next steps. Seek help from the experienced New York employment law attorneys at Ricotta & Marks, P.C. Schedule your free consultation by contacting our firm at (347)-464-8694.