New York is an at-will employment state. The employer and employee can terminate the employment relationship with or without cause and at any time. However, when an employer terminates an employee due to unlawful discrimination or retaliation for filing a complaint, the employee has a right to pursue a wrongful termination lawsuit.
At Woods Lonergan PLLC, we understand that the termination of an employment relationship can be a highly sensitive issue. Employers can face wrongful termination lawsuits, even when the termination was justified. We can help you avoid wrongful termination and retaliation claims and protect your business when they occur. Our firm also represents employees who believe they’ve been fired unlawfully. Contact Woods Lonergan today to schedule your initial consultation to discuss your wrongful termination matter with a skilled employment law attorney.
What Constitutes Wrongful Termination in New York?
An illegal or wrongful termination occurs when the termination violates the laws that protect employees. Wrongful termination also includes breaching an employment contract or agreement. Employees have the right to protect themselves against the breach of a contractual agreement between them and their employer. They also have the right to file a claim when an employer terminates their relationship illegally, such as discrimination. Examples of wrongful termination include the following:
- Termination was in retaliation for reporting wage violations or acts of discrimination
- Termination breached the terms of the employment contract
- Termination was based on an employee’s membership in a protected class, such as age, race, sex, religion, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, national origin, arrest or conviction history, or status as a domestic violence victim
- Termination was in retaliation for filing a claim for workers’ compensation
- Termination was in retaliation for reporting a violation of law that presents a specific danger to public safety or health, or
- Termination was in retaliation for serving jury duty
New York’s At-Will Employment Law
New York is an at-will employment state. All employees are considered “at-will” employees. Employers can fire employees without warning for any reason or no reason. Employers can fire employees at any time. Even if the reason for terminating an at-will employee seems unethical, unfair, or immoral, the termination may be lawful.
Breach of an Employment Contract
There are some exceptions to this general rule, however. First, when an employee signs a valid employment contract with his or her employer, the terms of the contract will govern employment decisions. The contract may state that the employer can only terminate employment “for cause,” meaning the employee has engaged in some form of improper conduct. Other contracts mandate that the employee receive proper notice before being terminated. Employers and employees must abide by the terms of the contract or face claims for breach of contract.
Wrongful Termination Due to Discrimination
New York employers can’t terminate employees due to illegal reasons. For example, employers can’t terminate employment due to the employee’s membership in a protected class, such as race, age, disability status, gender identity, sex, pregnancy, national origin, status as a victim of domestic violence, unemployment status, and national origin. New York’s labor law also prohibits employers from terminating an employee due to his or her participation in politics outside of the workplace.
Attorneys For Employers Facing Wrongful Termination Claims
New York employers must comply with numerous employment laws. One of the best ways to prevent wrongful termination lawsuits against your business is to work with an attorney to implement best practices. For example, if your company is hiring an executive, an attorney can help you draft an employment contract that clarifies the terms of the relationship. We can also help you create an employee handbook that clearly states your expectations.
If you need to terminate an employee’s employment, and you suspect the situation could become litigious, one of our skilled attorneys can help you navigate the process legally while protecting your business. Should a wrongful termination claim lead to litigation, our attorneys are trial-ready and can protect your business.
Pursuing a Wrongful Termination Case as an Employee
If you suspect that you’ve been wrongfully terminated, we recommend speaking to an employment attorney as soon as possible. At Woods Lonergan, we understand that being wrongfully terminated can be financially devastating for you and your loved ones. Wrongful termination deprives an employee of the income and positions they would have continued to earn and violates the employee’s rights.
After we carefully review the facts in your case, we will advise you on whether your employer has engaged in a wrongful termination. New York law gives you the right to seek legal relief from your employer if a wrongful termination has occurred. Obtaining compensation isn’t always easy. Wrongful termination cases can become adversarial and complicated. The attorneys at Woods Law will represent you throughout the process, protecting your rights and obtaining the remedies you deserve.
Remedies in New York
In New York, employees have a right to recover statutory damages resulting from an unlawful retaliatory or discriminatory termination. When the termination breached the employee’s contracts, the employer can pursue damages through a breach of contract claim. Statutory remedies for wrongful termination include the following:
- Lost wages
- Liquidated damages
- Compensation for emotional distress
- Attorneys’ fees and costs
Additionally, the New York City Human Rights Law provides employees with the right to collect unlimited punitive damages for employment discrimination, including sexual harassment. Employers who pursue damages through the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) are entitled to recover unpaid wages and liquidated damages in twice the amount of lost wages, emotional distress, attorneys’ fees, and costs, and compensation for emotional distress.
Contact a Wrongful Termination Attorney in New York City
Employers can terminate an employment relationship at any time and for any reason. However, employers can’t engage in wrongful termination for illegal or discriminatory reasons. If you are a business owner facing a wrongful termination lawsuit, or if you’re an employee who’s been fired unlawfully, you need an experienced attorney on your side. At Woods Lonergan, our employment attorneys counsel businesses throughout New York City during the termination process.