New York Wrongful Termination: Laws and Advice

Being fired from a job stirs up many emotions from anger to depression. It’s a loss of not only a job, but a means of supporting a family, a sense of self-worth and, perhaps, a way of life. How you handle yourself through this difficult and personal process can help determine what options you have to address the situation later.

“At Will” Employment

Wrongful TerminationNew York is an “at will” employment state allowing an employee to terminate their employment for any reason. However, an employer also has the right to terminate an employee as long as it’s compliant with state and federal laws. The most common federal laws cited in wrongful termination situations are the Federal Labor Standards Act of 1938 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In addition, state laws generally supplement these federal laws.

Policy and Procedure

Employers are well within their rights to fire an employee for cause, be it attendance, performance, or conduct. However, attendance expectations should be clearly explained by the employer in writing and must be compliant with the Family Medical Leave Act and all other state and federal laws protecting employees. Naturally, failure to meet the employer’s requirements can result in termination. Dismissal for performance should be based on clear, written expectations that are the same for all employees of a similar position. If an employee is fired based on performance, the burden of proof is on the employer, generally through employee performance reviews, an imperfect process based on the reviewing manager’s training and ability. A firing based on conduct must be executed following all state and federal laws and company policies. Company policies and processes must be provided to the employee in writing to set conduct expectations.

A Complex Situation

All of this adds up to the fact that a wrongful termination can be a complicated situation, to digest and to prove. Failure of the employer to comply with any of the requirements for the causes listed above can be grounds for wrongful termination. In addition, employer violations of an employee’s rights, be it retaliation against whistleblowers or any discriminatory behavior creating a hostile work environment, can be grounds for a wrongful termination.

How to File a Claim

If you feel you have been terminated without a valid reason you have two options, you can file a claim with a state agency (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) or hire an employment lawyer to file a lawsuit on your behalf privately in court. The next step is to validate the claims of wrongful termination. Once proven valid, attempts will be made to mediate a resolution between the two parties. If that fails, the case moves to a court. Given the complexity of these cases it is strongly recommended to consult with an employment lawyer to determine which legal remedies to pursue for unlawful termination and to defend your rights.

About Aimee Lancaster

Born and raised in New York Aimee works as a freelance author and contributes to multiple publications and blogs around the world.