The state of New York is part of the great majority of states where the relationship between employee and employer is at-will. Under this law, the employee has the liberty to change jobs whenever desired. At the same time, the employer has the right to dismiss employees without any type of reason or motive, and even unfairly. However, there are times when an employee’s termination is illegal, even in the state of New York.
Groups Protected under Federal Law and State Law of New York
The law forbids employers to discriminate against and dismiss workers based on race, gender, pregnancy, age, religion, or place of origin.
For example, a female who has worked at the company for several years is a model employee, arrives on time, fulfills her responsibilities, and gets along well with supervisors and co-workers. Her annual work evaluation is totally satisfactory, year after year. However, this employee becomes pregnant and is the victim of jokes in bad taste as a result of her condition. She complains to her boss but nothing is done. She takes the complaint to the human resources department. A few weeks later, she is fired.
In this case, the employer can be sued because the person is part of a protected group and was fired due to the same condition the law protects (pregnancy). Although it is not always easy to prove these cases, you do have the legal right to sue.
Workers’ Compensation Benefits Report or Claim
Workers’ compensation law applies to and provides benefits for the vast majority of employees. You have the right to these benefits even if you caused the accident, provided you have not done it intentionally or under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Your employer cannot fire you for having claimed your compensation benefits.
Suppose that you have been working for the same company for years and have never had problems. One day you suffer a work accident and you notify your supervisor and complete the claim forms to obtain benefits while you are treated and recovering. Days later, you receive a letter from your employer, telling you not to come back to work when you recover. Not all cases are easy to prove and it is indispensable to act immediately to be able to establish that you were fired because you claimed compensation benefits.
The at-will employment law does not prevent or annul employment contracts. The employer and employee may enter an employment contract for a specified time which contains clauses of work performance, expectations, and payment, among other things. If the employee fulfills his or her part of the contract and is fired, this constitutes a contract violation and gives the right to sue.
You enter into a contract that requires you to perform certain duties for a period of one year, with a specific salary and explicit vacation weeks. You resign from your previous job, incur moving expenses and start renting for the established time period. After 3 months, you are fired without having violated the terms established in the contract. You have not only lost the job, but you have also incurred expenses based on the expectation of the job and established income in the legal agreement. The law allows you to sue the employer for breach of contract.
Informant of Misdemeanor or Illegal Action
Our society plays an important role in the vast majority of established laws. One example of this is the law that protects employees who report or inform the government of corruption cases within the company or illegal actions committed by the company. These actions by informants are protected stimulate workers to report this conduct and benefit society in general.
You are a construction worker and you notice that the materials being used are not the same quality established in the contract and inspectors have been bribed to give the necessary approval and permits, and occupation permits are granted. This is very dangerous because a poorly-constructed building may result in loss of life. You document and report this situation and name the people you believe are involved. One week later, you are fired without apparent cause. The law authorizes you to file a lawsuit against your former boss.
If you are a victim of employment termination and are unsure if you have the right to sue your employer, contact us as soon as possible.