The Warshawsky Law Firm represents employees who have suffered a wrongful termination. A “wrongful termination” is any termination that violates an applicable federal, state, or local law. This is a generic term that encompasses a wide variety of potential claims, but it is often misunderstood by employees to mean an “unfair” termination. Just because a termination is unfair, however, does not mean that it is illegal. Determining whether or not a termination is illegal requires carefully examining the specific facts of each situation.
In New York, as in most states, the basic rule is that an employer may fire an employee at any time, for any reason or for no reason. Likewise, an employee may quit at any time, for any reason or for no reason. This is known as “at will” employment. The vast majority of employees are considered “at will.” Nevertheless, exceptions to “at will” employment are found in various non-discrimination and non-retaliation laws – all of which potentially limit the right of an employer to terminate an employee. If an employer violates one of these laws, it may be liable for “wrongful termination.”
Examples of wrongful termination include:
- Firing employees because of who they are:
Federal, state, and local non-discrimination laws prohibit employers from firing employees based on a wide variety of legally protected characteristics, including age, race, color, national origin, religion, sex, gender, pregnancy, sexual orientation, disability, genetic predisposition, marital status, family status, and military status.
- Firing employees because of what they said:
Employees who stand up for their rights – for example, complaining about discrimination or about not being paid properly – or who “blow the whistle” on corporate or governmental wrongdoing – for example, disclosing fraudulent medical billing practices or dangers to the public health or safety – are protected from being fired by numerous federal, state, and local non-retaliation laws.
- Firing employees who oppose sexual harassment:
One form of discrimination that unfortunately is common in the workplace is sexual harassment. Sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. It also can include offensive remarks about a person’s sex. Federal, state, and local non-discrimination laws prohibit employers from firing employees who oppose sexual harassment.
- Firing employees in violation of an employment contract:
Some employees are not “at will” but have employment contracts that promise a specific term employment and/or prohibit the employer from firing them except “for cause.” If the employer terminates such an employee in violation of the contract, it may constitute a wrongful termination. (“For cause” provisions also are contained in collective bargaining agreements, which generally are enforced by unions through a negotiated grievance process.)
If you or a loved one has suffered a wrongful termination, please contact The Warshawsky Law Firm for a free consultation.