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What Constitutes Wrongful Termination?

Almost every business has had to terminate a worker’s employment at some time. Maybe the work is seasonal and the company simply ran out of work. It could be that the company is restructuring. Perhaps the employee is a poor performer.

No matter how a person is laid off, businesses can almost always expect a disgruntled employee to file a lawsuit. While New York is an at-will state, meaning either the employer or employee can terminate the employment at any time, there are some exceptions.

Claims involving discrimination and wrongful termination declined in 2018, although the numbers are still high. There were 84,254 charges in fiscal year 2017, versus 76,418 during the 2018 fiscal year. If an employee takes the case to court, they will likely prevail. Two-thirds of cases are ruled in the employee’s favor when taken to trial.

Types of Wrongful Termination

There are several ways in which wrongful termination can occur:

  • Discrimination or harassment. An employer cannot harass or discriminate against an employee based on race, gender, age, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.
  • Not providing reasonable accommodations. Employers are mandated to provide reasonable accommodations to disabled employees. If they choose to ignore this and even fire the employee, they can face a lawsuit.
  • Ignoring protected leave. Based on state and federal laws, employees have rights to take leave from work for various reasons, such as pregnancy, FMLA and illness. Firing someone for taking this leave is illegal.
  • Employees have the right to report issues in the workplace, such as health and safety violations, wage and hour violations and workplace injuries. An employer cannot fire an employee for whistleblowing.
  • Breach of contract. If you have a contract outlining your employment and the employer does not follow these rules, you may have a wrongful termination case.

How Employees can Avoid Wrongful Termination

To prevent wrongful termination lawsuits, employers should follow these rules:

  • Define expectations. The layoff should not come as a total surprise. If an employee is not performing as well as they should, let them know as soon as possible.
  • Use compassion and empathy. Losing a job is upsetting to most people. Try to have some compassion. Offer some assistance to help the employee find a new job. Offer a severance or benefits package.
  • Follow the law. Make sure you are terminating for a valid reason—such as poor work performance—and not because of discrimination. Keep copious notes, as you may have to prove your case.
  • Invest in training. Train your team on how to communicate and work successfully without harassing each other. The workplace environment will be much happier.

Contact a New York Wrongful Termination Lawyer

In most cases, employers have valid reasons to lay off employees. Sometimes, however, the underlying reason is discrimination. If you were a star employee and you were suddenly laid off without warning, you may have a valid case for wrongful termination.

The attorneys at Ricotta & Marks, P.C. can determine if wrongful termination occurred in your case. We are knowledgeable of all the state and federal laws that apply. We can help you obtain compensation and even get your job back. Schedule a free consultation today. Give us a call at (347) 464-8694.

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