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Wrongful Termination: New York and Federal Law


Most jobs in New York State and New York City are "employment-at-will". This means that employment can be terminated by an employer or an employee at any time, for any reason or no reason, with or without notice. But there are limits to an employer's ability to fire its employees.


If you live or work in New York and think you suffered a wrongful termination, our experienced NYC employment lawyer can help effectively resolve your situation so you can move on with your life.


One limit of the employment at-will rule is that an employer cannot fire a worker as a result of unlawful retaliation, or workplace discrimination or harassment under New York or federal law. Unlawful discrimination or harassment is misconduct based on a person's pregnancy, race, sex, age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, or other legally protected classification, or based on the person's association with a member of one of the legally protected classifications (also known as "association or associative discrimination" or "discrimination by association"). For more information on federal and New York laws against workplace harassment, discrimination, and retaliation click here.


Wrongful termination under New York and federal law may also occur if an employer fires a worker in a manner that breaches an established contract that restricts termination (such as a collective bargaining agreement ("CBA"), employment offer letter, or provision in an established employee manual), or in a manner that otherwise violates New York and federal law. For example, an employer should not fire a worker for taking a sick day or an unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. For more information on the Family and Medical Leave Act click here. A worker also should not be fired for reporting illegal activities at work such as health and safety violations or acts of discrimination, harassment or retaliation.


Other exceptions to the employment-at-will doctrine exist under sections of the New York State Labor Law. Section § 201-d of the Labor Law prohibits an employer from firing a worker for engaging in political or recreational activities outside of the workplace, for legal use of consumable products outside of work, or for membership in a union. Section § 215 of the Labor Law prohibits employers from penalizing workers for making a complaint to the employer, to the Commissioner of Labor, or to the Commissioner's representative about any provision of the Labor Law.


If you have been fired or believe that you may be fired, keep a written record of everything that happens at work that you believe may be important. Also keep copies of all your relevant employment documents, such as any performance evaluations that you received, any notes or comments from your employer, supervisors and/or employees related to your performance or to any conflicts, discrimination or harassment that you may have experienced, and get a copy of your employee handbook and possibly your personnel file.


The law limits the amount of time you have to pursue your claims, so contact our office as soon as possible to speak to an experienced New York employment attorney about wrongful termination or other workplace issues.