Have I been wrongfully terminated?
Like every other state in the U.S., New York is an “at-will” state, meaning that with rare exceptions, any employee may be terminated, at any time, for any reason. However, those exceptions are important – there are certain occasions in which a firing can be unlawful, and if you believe that yours was, it is a good idea to contact an experienced employment lawyer to determine your options.
There are two major exceptions to New York’s “at-will” doctrine, where an employee’s termination can be viewed as unlawful. One is if a worker with an employment contract is terminated before the contract ends. Any employee with a contract is, by definition, not an at-will employee, and cannot be handled under the at-will doctrine; if they are, they will almost certainly have a case – though it will be for breach of contract, rather than specifically for wrongful termination.
The other exception to the at-will doctrine in New York State is when a termination is discriminatory – when it is based on a protected characteristic, or when it is in direct retaliation for a perceived act against your employer’s interests. For example, if you testified in a federal whistleblower proceeding against your employer, and are then summarily terminated, you may be able to file a complaint with the appropriate authorities because such a termination violates public policy – that is, it can be said to shock the conscience of the public.
Fired During The Pandemic?
In recent months, the COVID-19 pandemic has created staggering job losses in New York – some estimates top 1 million – and most of those lost have been due to owners tightening their belts out of necessity. However, not every job loss has been legitimate. Examples of illegitimate or unlawful termination in the pandemic have included being terminated as a result of refusing to disobey a shelter-in-place order, because of filing for workers’ compensation benefits for COVID-19, or as retaliation after filing complaints about insufficient social distancing or a lack of personal protective equipment.
Regardless of the reason that you were terminated, you must file a charge with New York authorities before you are granted the ability to file suit against your employer. The New York State Division of Human Rights will investigate the merit of your charge, and they will either determine that no jurisdiction exists, or that there is a claim, and will hold a public hearing. Regardless, having an employment lawyer on your side through this process can help to demystify the system enough to get what you deserve.
Call A New York City-Based Employment Discrimination Lawyer
Employment is one of the cornerstones of most people’s lives, and having it wrenched away without cause or warning can be disconcerting at best. If you have lost your job and you believe that your termination was wrongful, contacting a New York City employment discrimination attorney from Mansell Law, LLC is a good first step toward determining how to proceed. Contact our offices today by web form or by phone at 646-921-8900 to schedule a free consultation.