Wrongful termination can occur in New York when an employer fires an employee for an unlawful reason. In New York, most employees are at-will. At-will employees can be hired or fired for any reason or for no reason. Since most employees in New York and on Long Island are considered at-will, only certain situations give rise to claims of wrongful termination. An experienced Long Island wrongful termination lawyer can assess your case.
Many employees believe that if an employer fires an employee for a mistaken reason or for a wrong reason, then the employee has a wrongful termination claim. This belief is not correct. For example, if an employer fires an employee for stealing from the company, but the employee did not in fact steal anything, the employee does not have a claim for wrongful termination. The employee may be able to receive unemployment insurance payments, but the employee probably does not have a lawsuit.
To have a wrongful termination case on Long Island, the employee must be able to show that the employer terminated the employee based on an unlawful reason. Usually, that reason is a discriminatory reason. In New York, employers cannot terminate employees based on the employee's race, religion, national origin, pregnancy, disability, age, and certain other protected categories. A Long Island wrongful termination lawyer can review the facts of a termination to determine whether discrimination is at play.
In addition to discrimination, a wrongful termination lawsuit may arise from retaliation. Employees are protected from engaging in certain conduct in the workplace. For example, employees are allowed to complain about unlawful discrimination in the workplace. They may complain that they are not being paid the proper minimum wage or overtime pay, file a gender discrimination lawsuit, take Family Medical Leave (FMLA) or complain that they weren’t permitted to take a leave as the FMLA allows, and they may ask for reasonable workplace accommodations for a disability. Employers may not terminate employees who exercise one of these protected activities.
Similar actions may also be considered employment retaliation. However, other actions may fall short of a retaliation case. For example, if shortly after an employee complains about a personality conflict with a co-worker or a manager then the employee is demoted or terminated, this alone, would not rise to the level of retaliation. In other words, the conduct that caused the employee to complain in the first place must be protected under a specific law. Because the law does not protect an employee from mere workplace personality conflicts, an employee would not have a retaliation case.
But, not all employees are at-will employees in New York. Sometimes, employees may have individual employment contracts with their employers. Also, some employees are members of unions. In the case of unions, the union negotiated a contract which applies to all workers who are members of the union. This is called a collective bargaining agreement. Just because an employee has an employment contract and is part of a collective bargaining agreement does not mean that the employee is not an at-will employee. The contract must explicitly alter the at-will default rule. Typically, the employment contract or collective bargaining agreement will state that the employee may be terminated only for cause. For cause will be defined somewhere in the employment contract and that clause will usually identify the reasons that the employee may be terminated. Employees who are not fired in accordance with the for cause clause of the agreement may have a wrongful termination claim which can be brought as a breach of contract lawsuit. Famighetti & Weinick PLLC are experienced Long Island employment lawyers who handle breach of contract matters.
In New York, civil service workers may also be entitled to additional protections. Civil service workers may be in permanent positions. Generally, permanent civil service workers cannot be fired in New York without being given a hearing under Section 75 of the Civil Service Law. Tenured teachers cannot be fired without being given a 3020a hearing under the Education Law. Permanent civil service employees and tenured teachers who are not given a hearing may have a wrongful termination claim.
Experienced Long Island employment lawyers can review the facts of possible wrongful termination cases. Famighetti & Weinick PLLC's employment lawyers offer free consultations for employees who may have been wrongfully terminated.