New York is an at-will state when it comes to employment, like 48 other states (Montana is the only exception). What this means is that if you are an at-will employee, you can be fired at any time. However, the reason has to be legal.
Fired because you are pregnant? Illegal. Fired because you drive an ugly car to work? Legal. Fired because you are a woman? Illegal. Fired because of your political beliefs? Legal.
If you are an employer, it is important to be aware of when you can and cannot fire someone in order to avoid a wrongful termination lawsuit. Here are some illegal reasons to terminate someone’s employment and how you can fire someone tactfully without causing major issues.
When You Cannot Fire Someone
There are several situations in which firing someone is illegal. One is when it is because of an employee’s race. Certainly, a person of color can be fired from a job, but his or her race cannot be the sole reason. You cannot choose to hire only white people or people from a certain country.
Gender and sexual identity are other protected characteristics that cannot warrant firing a person. A person cannot be laid off solely because he or she is male or female. You cannot fire a woman because she is pregnant or may get pregnant in the future. Likewise, you cannot discriminate against a person who is homosexual or transgender. As an employer, a person’s sexual identity should not be your concern.
Religion is another protected characteristic. You cannot fire someone simply because you are Christian and he or she is Muslim. In fact, you should make accommodations for the person as needed.
You also cannot fire someone because of age. If an employee is getting older, you cannot simply fire him or her. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) kicks in after age 40. After all, age is not something we can control. We are all getting older every day. The exception is that you can choose not to hire someone because he or she is too young. For example, if your minimum hiring age is 18, you do not have to hire a 16 year old.
How to Fire Someone
Before firing someone, check their performance feedback. It will look suspicious if you suddenly fire one of your top employees. If someone is performing poorly, given that employee a chance to improve. 30 days is a good amount of time. Let the employee know that if you see no improvement, he or she will be terminated. It is always good to give an employee a warning before doing something drastic.
Never fire someone on Friday. This gives them the weekend to stew. Do it early in the week. Make it short and sweet. Do not give in to the employee’s emotions. Do not let the employee linger. Allow him or her to pick up personal belongings and escort the ex-employee out the door.
Contact a New York Wrongful Termination Lawyer
If you were a good employee who suddenly got terminated for no apparent reason, you may be a victim of wrongful termination. While most employment is at-will, sometimes terminations are cover-ups for discrimination cases.
If you feel you have been wrongfully terminated from your job, let the attorneys at Ricotta & Marks, P.C. investigate. We will help you fight for your rights. Call our office at (347) 464-8694 to schedule a consultation.