By Ricotta & Marks, P.C. on August 20th, 2021 in
What Constitutes Wrongful Termination? Essentially, wrongful termination depends on the employer. In New York, private employers have much more freedom in terminating employees for almost any reason they see fit. This is not necessarily true for public employers or employers of union workers, however, who must uphold collective-bargaining agreements in their termination of employees. Collective bargaining refers to the ability of employees to negotiate their contracts with their employers. Unions work to enforce the rules of a contract, therefore protecting employees throughout the process of contract negotiation, including contract termination.
Several laws prohibit employers from wrongfully terminating employees. Understanding what constitutes wrongful termination is key before moving forward with a case. The most common prohibited reasons include:
- Discrimination based on a protected category such as race, age, sex, national origin, military status, disability. For more information on the categories protected under employment discrimination laws, consider visiting our online resource.
- Retaliation. As an employee, you are legally protected by retaliation laws against being terminated on the basis of your participation or involvement in a workplace complaint, investigation, or any related activity. Therefore, if you filed a complaint with the EEOC and were terminated immediately following the investigation, you may be a victim of wrongful termination under the law.
- Participating in any legal political or recreational activities during your personal time. Engaging in political protests or legal recreational activities in the workplace is most likely permitted by your employer. How you conduct yourself in your free time, however, is your choice.
- Forming, joining, or otherwise supporting a union. Employees have the right to unionize. This even protects collective action at the lower level, such as gathering with fellow coworkers to improve wages or working conditions.
- Serving jury duty. You cannot legally be terminated for fulfilling jury duty responsibilities.
- Filing for workers’ compensation or disability benefits.
- New York City only: Requesting sick leave. If you are employed in New York City and have been fired for requesting or taking sick leave, you may have been wrongfully terminated.
Q: What If I Believe my Wrongful Termination was in Retaliation?
As mentioned above, it is unlawful to terminate an employee for engaging in legally protected activities. Retaliation can occur after an employee has:
- Reported or filed a discrimination or harassment complaint
- Participated in a discrimination or harassment investigation
- Reached out to a higher authority to report unsafe or unhealthy working conditions
- Testified in a lawsuit against an employer
It is illegal to fire an employee due to any of these aforementioned factors. If you believe that you were wrongfully terminated in retaliation, you have options at your disposal.
The law protects employees who were terminated wrongfully due to retaliation. In fact, retaliation is the most frequently cited form of discrimination by the EEOC. That being said, the EEOC fields retaliation complaints, but you must file a claim within 300 days of the retaliation. The National Labor Relations Board and the New York State Division of Human Rights also investigate instances of retaliation and discrimination. The New York State Division of Human Rights has a longer time period to file a claim, 1 year. If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated on the basis of retaliation, these organizations are excellent outlets to begin the fight for justice.
In many cases, it is advised to seek legal assistance from experienced workplace retaliation attorneys. The team at Ricotta & Marks P.C. are highly-experienced and ready to fight for your rights. We are available to discuss what constitutes wrongful termination under the law and ensure that you are treated justly.
Q: How Do I Prepare To Meet With A Lawyer?
Retaliation and whistleblowing are legally complex issues and speaking with an attorney can help you decide whether you have a viable claim under the law. Before you meet with a lawyer, compile all relevant information regarding your claim. Keep track of documents and/or any signed contracts. Piecing together a timeline of events is helpful as well, since cases involving wrongful termination on the basis of retaliation are time-sensitive. The less time that has elapsed since initially reporting discrimination/harassment and the termination, the stronger your case.
A lawyer will help you review all the facts of the case and make an informed decision about how to move forward. If you do have a wrongful termination case, an attorney can present the best legal strategy to vindicate your rights.
If you or a loved one was wrongfully terminated due to retaliation, time matters. Do not hesitate to file a complaint or seek legal assistance. At Ricotta & Marks P.C., we are trained to recognize what constitutes wrongful termination.