Some states have an “at will” employment law; New York State is one of them. This means an employer is free to hire and fire at their discretion and for any reason, without providing you a reason as much as you may want an explanation. However, even though it is legal to fire someone “without cause” – barring the exceptions mentioned later – some termination reasons are against the law and there are legal actions to take for wrongful termination in NY. It would be the terminated employee’s burden to show he or she was illegally fired.
It is not illegal to terminate an employee for any “unfair” reason. For instance, mistaken theft accusation at work, being out sick often, take a pay-cut / reduced hours or you are fired, or replacing you with a family member to name a few. These may be unfair treatments, but not against the law.
What are prohibited grounds for employment termination?
Employment termination based on discrimination of one – or multiple – protected characteristics, meaning certain social and physical traits deemed by law to not be related to an employee’s occupational abilities.
• Marital Status
• Sexual Orientation
Law does not allow employers in New York State, to use protected characteristics when making employment decisions, including employment terminations. Further, NYS law also does not allow any treatment of employees to be different depending on the worker’s different protected characteristics. For instance, if you are a man who engaged in a workplace fight with another employee and you are fired, but women who were involved in a workplace fight were not, it is an illegal treatment called “disparate treatment” – discrimination type prohibited by city, state and federal employment laws.
Main Anti-Discrimination Laws
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – Title VII
• Americans with Disabilities Act – ADA, U.S.C. § 1981
• Age Discrimination in Employment Act – ADEA
• Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – Title VII
• New York City Human Rights Law – NYCHRL
• New York State Human Rights Law – NYSHRL
Other Protections from Being Wrongfully Terminated
• Family and Medical Leave Act – FMLA
• New York State Labor Law
• Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act – USERRA
Jury Duty Summons – An employer notified in advance cannot terminate an employee for missing work for to serve on jury duty. Any employee being fired for an absence to fulfil the obligation should alert the Attorney General’s office.
Workers’ Compensation – An employee cannot be fired for filing a Worker’s Compensation or Disability Benefits claim. The same law applies for an employee who testifies before the Workers’ Comp Board.
NYC Discrimination Protection Laws – The New York State Human Rights Law prohibits an employer from the discharge of an employee based on their sexual orientation – partnership status, arrest or conviction record – sexual offenses and stalking included – or domestic violence victims.
Legal Activities on Personal Time – Any employee can participate in legal recreational or political activities without fear of employment termination.
The “Whistle Blower” – Reporting a health and safety danger to a public agency or supervisor, or refusing to participate in the act and being fired for it, is illegal.
Employee Manual – Rules in an employee manual that are not followed on the employer’s side and a termination has occurred not in adherence with the listed steps/actions the employer will take, can be grounds for a reinstatement suit and lost wages.
Union Contract – If an employer resulting in an employee termination violates rights under a union contract, this could be grounds for legal action.
Binding Contract – If an employer resulting in an employee termination violates rights under a binding contract, this could be grounds for legal action.
When trying to decide whether or not you have legal grounds for wrongful employment termination, it boils down to – Did the employer violate one or more laws in the decision to fire an employee? If so, then the employee has a legal right to take action against the previous employer. Contact Dansker & Aspromonte today to discuss what we can do for you to fight and reclaim your employment rights.