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NYC Litigation Blog

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Grounds for a Wrongful Termination Suit in NY

Can I be fired without cause if I have an employment agreement?

Employees today are typically deemed to be “at-will,” meaning that an employer can terminate the employment at any time.  However, certain employees who have a written or oral employment contract may be entitled to protections against firings without cause.  Additionally, even at-will employees cannot be terminated for discriminatory or retaliatory reasons. Our New York City wrongful termination lawyers discuss the potential grounds for a wrongful termination lawsuit below.

Contract Employees

Not all employees are at-will, and it is critical that contracted employees review their employment agreement.  Some employees will sign a written employment agreement that limits the employer’s right to fire the employee. Alternatively, an employment agreement can also be verbal.  If your employer made verbal promises to you at the time of your hiring, such as promising you would not be fire if you performed well in your position, this could constitute grounds for wrongful termination.  

Wrongful termination suits based on a written or oral expressed or implied employment contract can be complex.  Any potential lawsuit for wrongful termination based on an employment contract will require a close reading of the contract or strong evidence of the oral inducement.

Retaliation

Federal and New York state law protects employees from being terminated for complaining about certain illegal behaviors or exercising your legal rights.  For instance, you cannot be fired for taking lawful time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Likewise, you cannot be terminated for filing a claim for workers’ compensation benefits or seeking reimbursement of unpaid overtime costs.

Additionally, New York, like most other states, offers some protections for whistleblower employees.  If an employee reports certain illegal activities of an employer to law enforcement or the appropriate government agency, then the employee is protected from a retaliatory firing.

Discrimination

Employees, whether at-will or not, cannot be fired for discriminatory reasons.  Federal law protects employees from firing based on their sex, religion, color, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information.  Employees who believe they are fired due to a protected characteristic will need to provide evidence of the illicit motive. For example, circumstantial evidence of discriminatory intent on the part of the employer could consist of evidence that the employee was not treated like his or her peers who do not possess the same protected characteristic.  Contact an employment discrimination lawyer as soon as possible if you believe you have been the victim of a wrongful termination.


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