You may have experienced this yourself. An employer fired you for no reason, leaving you wondering why you even deserved to be fired. It wasn’t your performance. You were never late and always on time. What could the reason be? Why were you fired without cause?
New York is an employment-at-will state. This means that you can be fired for no reason or any reason whatsoever. It also means that you could be terminated for really bad reasons too. Surprisingly, most forms of discrimination are legal in New York. This means that you could be fired for having blonde hair. You could be fired for being too fat or too skinny (as long as your condition is not a disability). You could be fired for being too short or too tall (again, as long as your condition is not a disability). You could be fired for liking a certain movie or tv show that that the employer disagrees with. That is bad news.
The good news, however, is that not all reasons for firing someone are legal or permissible. There are some reasons that are definitely illegal if you are fired. Accordingly, if you do find yourself being terminated, and you suspect that the real reason is due to one of these reasons, you have a right to file an action against your employer for money damages. This article shall address some of the illegal reasons to fire someone
New York has clear laws prohibiting certain and specific reasons for termination by an employer. Let’s review these illegal reasons to fire someone.
You’d be surprised that most forms of discrimination of legal in New York. Since New York is an at-will state, an employer can terminate a person for a good reason, bad reason, or no reason at all. However, there are some categories of discrimination that are illegal. These categories are designed to protect certain groups of employees called “suspect classes.” If your employer discriminates based on the following list, it is a violation of state and federal law:
In addition to the state and federal laws, the federal Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, New York also has its own anti-discrimination laws under its own Human Rights Law. Can I sue my employer for firing me? Yes, you can. If you were subjected to any of the above discrimination, you should talk with an employment law attorney right away.
As recent as September 30, 2020, employers in New York must provide employees with up to 56 hours of paid sick leave per year. Reasons for paid sick leave include:
If the employer violates or refuses this paid time off for the above reasons, and that employee is fired for being sick, that employee may have a claim for unlawful termination and should seek an employment law attorney right away.
Sexual harassment is illegal both federally in the United States, state laws, and specifically in New York. Moreover, retaliation by the employer for such harassment against the employee is also prohibited. According to the New York State Human Rights Law, any individual who has engaged in “protected activity” is protected. Protected activity is when that individual:
Accordingly, it is illegal for an employee to be fired for a harassment complaint.
In addition to filing a harassment complaint, retaliation by the employer, according to the New York Human Rights Law, may also include when an individual:
What to do when you get fired unfairly? If you are terminated for illegal retaliation, you should contact an employment law attorney right away to discuss what actions you can take.
New York cares and protects its whistleblowers. If an employer is committing environmental or public health violations or engaging in health care fraud, and that employee reports to the employer, there are whistleblower laws designed to protect that employee. What part of the OSH Act protects employees from being fired? The whistleblower provisions of the Occupational Safety Health Act is meant to protect whistleblowers. A failure to protect these employees violates public trust in the ability to speak out against such employer actions and behavior.
According to N.Y. Labor Law § 733 to 739, an employer may not require, request, suggest, permit, or use the results of a lie detector test against an employee. If an employer believes that you have stolen and asks that you take a polygraph test, and you refuse and then are later terminated for that refusal, you may have a claim against your employer for wrongful termination.
According to the New York Human Rights Law, employers are prohibited from fired without cause when they are:
If any of these actions are being done by an employer, that employee needs to contact an employment attorney.
It is illegal to terminate or retaliate against an employee for reporting that an employer has committed any Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA) violations. Potential remedies for the employee include:
Similarly, it is illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee for reporting that an employer engaged in violations of public policy. Again, the potential remedies would be those to try to make the employee whole again.
Although New York is an employment-at-will state, which means that an employee can be fired for no reason or any reason at all, one way that they may not be able to be so easily fired is if there are employment contracts with written terms outlining the process of termination. In addition to an actual employment agreement, bargaining agreement, or union contract, an employment agreement may also exist through employee handbooks.
An employee handbook is employee-based and is sometimes also viewed by the courts as an employment agreement between the employee and employer. An employment handbook sometimes indicates the reasons for termination and the process. For instance, if the employee handbook indicates that a warning must be issued first or some sort of investigation before termination can take place, then that action must be followed by the employer.
Or, for instance, if the employee handbook states that there must be a certain protocol first before any termination takes place, and the employer just gets mad at the employee and fires him on the spot, that could be construed as a breach of contract and the employee may have a claim.
If the employer fails to abide by any of the actions indicated in the employee handbook, then that employee may have a case against their employer for breach of contract.
As such, it is important to discuss your claim with an experienced employment law attorney who can review the collective bargaining agreements with your union, and/or employee handbook to determine if indeed a breach of contract claim exists and how strong it is.
If an employer fires an employee, that employee has the right to file a claim against their employer for money damages. Moreover, since wrongful termination claims are very fact-specific, it is important to consult with an experienced employment attorney who can best analyze your case and determine how strong a case you have.
Yes. If you are terminated and the employer’s actions for termination were prohibited or illegal, an experienced employment lawyer can get you money damages and try to make you whole again. In addition to back wages, you may be entitled to benefits and out of pocket expenses you’ve incurred.
Although you may have the right to pursue an actionable claim against your employer for illegal termination, that does not mean that you have an infinite amount of time to do so. The time period to pursue a wrongful termination claim is governed by the statute of limitations. If you don’t file your wrongful termination lawsuit in court before the statute of limitations expires, you lose your right to pursue your wrongful termination claim. Accordingly, it is important to obtain legal advice from an experienced employment law attorney to determine how much time you have and when your statute of limitations expires. How long after being fired can you sue?
Under the Whistleblower Protections under the health act OSHA or occupational safety and health act, the employer is prohibited from retaliating against the employee, such as by firing an employee. These provisions protect employees.
Unfortunately not. Since New York is an employment-at-will state, the employer does not need to give a reason.
If you suspect that your employer is trying to terminate you and that the reason for the termination is illegal and prohibited by law, such as illegal activity or retaliation, then you need to do two things. One, contact an employment law attorney right away. Two, document everything that happens between you and your employer, including saving any texts, emails, phone logs, and communication. The more evidence you have, the easier it will be to file a claim if you need to.
Yes. In addition to back wages, if you are terminated illegally, you are seeking damages based on where you were prior to your termination. This includes benefits, titles, and responsibilities, and reinstating your employment.
A termination letter should include the date you were terminated and the expiration of any. Since New York is an employment-at-will state, it does not need to include a reason for termination.
Being wrongfully terminated is not fun and pursuing a wrongful termination against your employer isn’t even worse. Since the strength of these claims is based upon the facts, having an experienced employment law attorney, who is familiar with labor and employment law, to be able to sift through the facts and apply the applicable law is very important.
The Law Office of Yuriy Moshes represent wrongfully terminated employees in the greater New York City area including all its boroughs, including Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island) as well as Northern New Jersey, Long Island, and Upstate New York.