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What constitutes wrongful termination? Discrimination, Part 2

Having employment generally adds a sense of stability to an individual’s life. Income can provide support to individual employees and their loved ones. However, being terminated from employment creates a significant disruption. This feeling is amplified if a person is fired on less-than-legitimate grounds.

In our blog post published on June 25, we took a look at how at-will employment relationships function in terms of wrongful termination claims. Although employers have a lot of latitude in firing at-will workers, there are some standards for treatment that never change. Workplace discrimination laws apply to all employees, even those in at-will positions.

The definition of employment discrimination is based on a combination of federal and state law. New York state law has protections that are not enumerated by federal law. According to the law, an employee working within cannot be fired for the following reasons:

  • Race, ethnicity or national origin.
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Physical abilities
  • Sexual orientation
  • Criminal history
  • Religious preferences, affiliation or beliefs
  • Retaliation
  • Marital status
  • Veteran status

These previously mentioned personal attributes have little to no bearing on an individual’s ability to complete a job. Employers should make decisions about hiring or firing based on a person’s performance, as opposed to prejudice.

In order to initiate a claim for wrongful termination based on discrimination, there are specific steps that must be followed. Namely, a complaint must be filed with the appropriate public employment agency, such as the New York Department of Labor. Given the specificity of the process, and the standard that must be met to qualify as illegal termination, it may be helpful to retain the services of an attorney.

Nobody deserves to feel as though they are being forced out of a job for unfair or baseless reasons. Taking a stand may not only help the wrongfully terminated individual, but may also lead to more widespread reforms in the workplace.

Source: New York Department of Labor, “How to File a Discrimination Claim,” accessed June 27, 2014

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