Wrongful Termination – New York & Federal Laws
As New York wrongful termination lawyers, we are often asked by potential clients to help them by filing a lawsuit against a previous employer for wrongful termination. It’s important to understand that under the law, “wrongful termination” does not mean any reason that an employee deems to be “wrongful,” or even any reason that may be morally “wrongful.”
Instead, under New York and Federal law, wrongful termination is an action that is taken by an employer (the firing) in conjunction with an illegal purpose or reason, such race or pregnancy, for example. The illegal reason must be one recognized by the law, such as:
- Sexual Identity/Gender Expression
- Sexual Orientation
- Race and Color
- National Origin
- Arrest or Conviction Record
- Marital Status
- Domestic Violence Victim Status
- Credit History
- Status as a Caregiver
If your termination is due to one of these or a limited number of other reasons, then you may have a case for wrongful termination.
When is Termination Not Wrongful?
Unless the termination is due to a legally-protected interest, such as one of the items listed above, it likely will not be “wrongful” under the law. The fact is, that unless you are covered by a contract or collective bargaining agreement, your employer can fire you at any time, for any reason at all (or for no reason) except for those matters that are protected under the law.
As an example, suppose your car breaks down, you’re late for work for the first time and your employer fires you. While this may be “wrongful” from a moral standpoint, it is not wrong under the law unless the real reason is one of the reasons noted above.
For instance, assume that you are also pregnant and this same event happens to you. If you know (and can credibly argue and ultimately prove) that your boss wanted to fire you because of your pregnancy, this would be considered “wrongful termination;” if your boss simply didn’t want workers showing up late, then the termination would not be wrongful (and thus not recoverable under the law). In other words, you can be fired when you’re pregnant, but you can’t be legally fired because you’re pregnant.
Wrongful Termination Cases Are Highly Fact-Specific
Keeping with our example, if your boss did not fire or reprimand others who were late but you were fired the first time you were late, that would be a factor in your favor. If your boss openly discussed how he wished he could fire you because of your pregnancy, this would also be supportive of your claim. If, however, these circumstances did not exist and your boss routinely fired people for all sorts of relatively trivial matters, then your case may not be strong.
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We offer a free consultation, and we generally accept wrongful termination cases on a contingent-fee basis.
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