When deciding whether to let go of an employee, there are several laws employers must adhere to. For example, employers cannot fire workers on the basis of their race, the country they were born in or the religion they practice. Further, violations of contracts existing between employers and employees are considered illegal. These actions may open employers up to a lawsuit by their employees. The concept of at-will employment is at the center of state and federal wrongful termination laws.
At-Will Employment in New York
Like numerous other states, New York has established at-will employment laws. This means that a company can end a worker’s employment for any reason or at any time, given they do not have a contract that specifies otherwise and there are no other regulations pertaining to the relationship. Although these laws are currently active for most businesses, there are certain exceptions that limit employers’ rights to terminate employees in certain circumstances.
Wrongful Termination in New York
New York law allows a number of exceptions to the state’s at-will employment doctrine. Terminating workers under these exceptions could afford employees the right to take legal action. Through claims such as this, employees may be able to obtain compensation such as back and front pay, reimbursement of attorney fees, punitive damages and reasonable accommodations. Additionally, the worker may be reinstated to his or her former position.
Breach of Contract: Any time employers and employees enter into contracts, violating the terms can lead to a lawsuit. In some cases, such contracts will stipulate that workers are not at-will employees, offering job security. They may also spell out the circumstances by which they may lose their jobs. Through these employment contracts, companies forfeit their rights to fire employees for any reason and at any time. Whether they are written or oral, it is essential that employers adhere to the stipulations of any employment contracts.
Discrimination: Instances of wrongful termination frequently involve discrimination of some kind. Under federal law, employers are not permitted to fire any worker based on the following factors: age, sex, race, color, ethnicity, citizenship status, national origin, religion, genetic information, disability or pregnancy. New York shares these laws and further prohibits any form of discrimination based on a worker’s sexual orientation, marital status, political status, criminal accusations, domestic violence victim status, or military status or service.
Retaliation: The state and federal laws that govern discriminatory practices also prohibit companies from retaliating against employees for asserting their legal rights or taking part in discrimination hearings. This includes terminating their employment, transferring them, cutting their wages, demoting them, or passing them up for promotions or special projects. The activities protected by these laws include testifying in legal proceedings and otherwise assisting to end discriminatory practices.
New York also has laws in place that prevent employees from retaliating against workers for a number of other reasons. These include the following: fulfilling their jury duty service, taking time off to serve in the military, taking leave under the Family Medical Leave Act or taking time off to spend with a spouse who is on leave during a military deployment. In addition, state law prohibits employers for firing workers who have been reinstated after a leave of absence for uniformed service for up to one year unless they have just cause.
Public Policy: Public policy exceptions prevent companies from firing workers if doing so would be in violation of an established public policy in the state. For example, most New York workers who are injured on the job are entitled to collect workers’ compensation benefits. The state has laws in place stipulating that businesses cannot fire employees who file workers’ compensation claims. Workers also cannot be discharged on the grounds that they refused to comply with a request from their employers to do something illegal.
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