NY Wrongful Termination Lawyers

Wrongful Termination – New York & Federal Laws

As a New York wrongful termination law firm, we represent those who have been illegally terminated by an employer in violation of Federal, New York State, and New York city law. 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 “wrong.”

What is Wrongful Termination?

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 discrimination, for example. The illegal reason must be one that is recognized by the law, such as:

If your termination is due to one of these or a limited number of other reasons, then you should discuss your case with a wrongful termination lawyer.

What Should I Do if I’ve Been Fired or Wrongly Terminated?

First, if you have any copies of correspondence concerning your termination, please save it (such as copies of emails that may undermine a company’s stated purpose for your termination).

Second, take notes of any witnesses who may have witnessed your termination, or who may be able to provide information about the real reason you were terminated.

Third, have a confidential conversation with an experienced wrongful termination attorney.

At Tuckner, Sipser, Weinstock & Sipser we offer a free consultation and case evaluation.  We invite you to call us to learn about the legal ramifications of your case, and your options for seeking justice if you were wrongly terminated.


Can an “At Will” Employee Sue for Wrongful Termination?

Yes. Even though a worker’s employment may be “at will”, a company may not fire a worker for an illegal purpose.

These days, almost all employees are considered to work “at-will,” which means that your company is free to fire you whenever it wants, at any time it likes, and for any reason or for no reason at all.  The exception to this lopsided work relationship is when an employee is fired for illegal reasons, such as discrimination based on a protected status such as race or sex, etc., or in retaliation for opposing an unlawful or discriminatory act, such as sexual harassment.

If you’re able to allege and later prove that your conditions of employment or termination was caused by some form of discriminatory hostility, racial intolerance, pregnancy discrimination, or a culture of sexism, for example, then you may have a viable claim for wrongful termination.

Can You Be Fired if You Have an Employment Contract?

Yes, in which case your employer would owe you damages for such termination unless you were terminated in accordance with a provision in the contract that allowed such termination.

Often people believe that they have an employment contract when in fact all they have is an offer letter.  The offer letter that may look and feel like an employment contract, as few of us these days can command a true, mutually protective employment contract before we’re hired.

In the unlikely event that you did sign a binding employment contract that outlines the essential job functions, responsibilities, and benefits of employment over a set period of months or years, then the employer must honor those terms. A written contract that recites a certain level of job security, for one example, could be taken to mean that the job is not “at-will.” And if the contract states that the employee may be fired only for failing to meet certain annual or semi-annual productivity goals or benchmarks, then you may not be terminated for other “pretextual” reasons.

Can I Be Fired if I’m a Member of a Union with a Collective Employment Contract?

If you’re one of the paltry remaining 6.3% of the private workforce that’s still covered by a union collective bargaining agreement, then your employer may still need to jump through certain hoops through a process known as progressive discipline before you can be fired, and your union can support and fight for you through demands for hearings or private arbitration in the event of a breach of that contract, so check with your shop steward, union delegate, or union representative and notify them in writing of your discrimination grievances as soon as possible.

Can I Be Fired as Retaliation for Making an HR Complaint or Because I Become Pregnant?

No.  An employer may not terminate, demote, fail to promote, or otherwise subject an employee to hostile backlash in reaction to an employee engaging in certain protected activities, such as telling your employer that you’re pregnant, or reporting racist treatment, or reporting the sexual harassment of yourself or a co-worker.

If the company reacts by ignoring you or failing to investigate or making your work life worse as a result, that would be considered illegal retaliation, an adverse action that can get an employer successfully sued for wrongful termination.

Other protected activities may include taking maternity or any other disability, FMLA leave or other medical leave, sitting on a jury, serving in the military, taking time off to vote, or participating in an official investigation into the employer’s practices by a governmental agency.

How Can I Prove Wrongful Termination?

As a New York wrongful termination law firm, we are experienced in proving cases of wrongful termination.  In many cases, there may not be a “smoking gun” in terms of an employee being fired for a clearly illegal reason.  As an example, it would be rare for a boss to tell an employee that she was being fired because she was pregnant.

Instead, a full range of evidence must be considered.  Perhaps the woman was receiving outstanding reviews prior to becoming pregnant, and then her reviews became much worse after she announced her pregnancy.  A person of color may also have had outstanding reviews under one boss, but then negative reviews under a new boss who was known to make derogatory remarks against those who are not white.

As part of the litigation process, we often will want to interview other workers and subpoena records, such as all memos and emails relating to a person’s termination.  We will also want to depose (interview under oath) those involved in the termination process to try to uncover their motivations, as well as to elicit testimony about what they might have done or said.

In a jury trial for wrongful termination, we will also call company management and witnesses to testify.  Unlike a criminal trial (in which case an accused can refuse to testify), company managers and others must testify under oath.

And, unlike a criminal trial which requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt, in a civil trial for wrongful termination the standard of proof is only “more likely than not”.

Do Employers Need to Provide a Reason for Termination?

No. If you are an at-will employee, your employer can simply fire you without providing any reason. However, if you believe that the actual reason you are being fired is due to you being part of a legally-protected class (such as you are being fired because you are over 40 and the company wants to replace you with someone younger), then you may have a case for wrongful termination.

What is Pretextual Wrongful Termination?

Pretextual wrongful termination occurs when a company makes an excuse for an illegal firing.

As an example, the company may claim that a woman was not performing well, when in fact the company fired the woman because she became pregnant and the company did not want to give her paid time off or thought that she might not return to the workplace after the baby was born.

Can I Get My Job Back if I Was Wrongly Terminated?

Even if you’ve been wrongly or illegally terminated, an employer does not necessarily have to give you your job back, except in certain situations (such as if your part of a union and your job is covered under a collective bargaining agreement). Instead, a settlement or verdict for wrongful termination typically consists of monetary compensation.

How Much Money Can I Get If I Was Wrongfully Terminated?

If you’ve been wrongly or illegally terminated, your employer must pay for the full damages that you sustained, such as lost wages.  While this sounds fair, the actual damages are more difficult to determine.  Additionally, you will also be responsible for mitigating your damages (in other words, you must actively seek employment).

In most cases, when a person is subject to wrongful termination, that person will be unemployed for some amount of time.  The person may receive unemployment compensation; however, this may not make up for a person’s lost wages. They may also not be able to obtain a job with the same salary or benefits that they were making.  These and other facts will be considered in determining damages.

Is Wrongful Termination a Separate Claim?

“Wrongful termination” by itself does not exist as a separate legal claim.  Instead, wrongful termination under the law is always based upon a specifically-recognized illegal reason, such as termination because the person is a member of a particular class, such as being pregnant or a being of a certain race, or because of protected action taken by the person, such as reporting sexual harassment.

As a result, in addition to taking into account matters such as lost wages, a jury will also be able to make an award based upon the underlying nature of the wrongful termination (i.e. pregnancy or race discrimination).

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, 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.

Also, 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,

Can I Be Fired if I’m Pregnant?

Yes.  You can be fired when you’re pregnant, but you can’t be legally fired because you’re pregnant.

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From the moment I made a call to Jack Tuckner and had the pleasure of speaking with Deborah, I knew that I had made the right decision. They were attentive, supportive, and professional through my entire process. They are an amazing team, and I am forever grateful for the closure that they brought me. I highly recommend their services. Not all Super Heroes wear capes!

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Wrongful Termination Cases Are Highly Fact-Specific

When we learn about the facts of your case we can advise you as to whether you have a strong case for wrongful termination.

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Deborah O’Rell, Client Advocate