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NYC Employment Lawyer > Blog > Employment Discrimination > How Can I tell If My Termination Was Wrongful?

How Can I tell If My Termination Was Wrongful?


Generally, most employees in the United States are considered “at-will,” meaning that they can be terminated at any time, for any reason. However, this does not mean that there is never a time when a firing can be wrongful. If you have been terminated and you believe that it was motivated by something other than your job performance, you may have a claim against your employer. Contacting an attorney to discuss your options may help to clarify matters.

Three Exceptions

There are three exceptions to the at-will doctrine that hold sway in New York. In other words, an employee can be let go at-will unless one of three things occurs:

  • An employee cannot be terminated for any reason that might be discriminatory, whether the discriminatory intent is intentional or not. This can sometimes be difficult to determine; a policy that is facially discriminatory is easy to spot, but a policy that has a discriminatory outcome is just as unacceptable, even without the malicious intent to do so;
  • An employer may not terminate an employee as a retaliatory action. For example, if an employee ‘blows the whistle’ on the employer’s unethical behavior, the employer cannot then turn around and unilaterally terminate the employee; and
  • An employer may not terminate an employee if that employee has a contract. A contract employee, by definition, is not considered an “at will” employee, because the contract prevails, creating specific conditions for hiring and firing. Failure to do this gives rise to a breach of contract claim, as well as a wrongful termination claim, in many situations.

If any of these situations has happened in your case, it is a good idea to contact an attorney, because the odds are good that you may have a claim against your employer for wrongful termination.

Was My Pandemic-Related Termination Wrongful?

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen a rise in a slightly different type of wrongful termination case, referred to as wrongful “constructive” termination, which may also affect the average worker. “Constructive” in the legal sense is a legal fiction, implying something which may not technically be true, but should be. For example, this phenomenon is most often seen in cases where workers refused to work in a location where coronavirus safety procedures were poorly implemented or not implemented at all – they may not have been wrongfully terminated, but for all intents and purposes, they have been shut out of their job due to their employer’s refusal to implement reasonable safeguards.

There are two federal laws that oversee this type of issue, with the most relevant being the Occupational Safety & Health Act (OSH). OSHA has issued safety guidelines employers have been required to follow during the pandemic, and a failure to do so can open an employer up to liability. The Act explicitly forbids employers from taking any negative action against employees who make complaints about workplace safety, but too many either retaliate against those who do, or simply fail to fix the guidelines, which can result in constructive termination.

Call A New York Employment Discrimination Lawyer Today

Losing one’s job is never good, but it is not often illegal. If you suspect that you were wrongfully terminated (whether actual or constructive), calling a New York City employment discrimination attorney from Mansell Law, LLC is a good first step toward forming your plan for the future. Contact our offices today at 646-921-8900 for a free consultation.



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