In New York, unless you have a contract with your employer, you can be fired for any legal reason; or even for no reason at all. Where you are terminated for a capricious, arbitrary, or even nonsensical reason, you generally have no legal recourse.
However, there are a number of specific situations in which a termination can be considered wrongful. Significantly among them are the following:
Firing someone based on a characteristic protected by law (e.g., race, religion, gender, age, etc.). Please see the section on discrimination as well as the Discrimination/Retaliation Quiz for more information;
Firing someone as retaliation for exercising a protected right. Though by no means a complete list, generally speaking, this would include terminations of people for making or otherwise participating in a labor dispute, worker's compensation claim, unpaid wage claim, harassment claim, or family leave claim;
Firing someone for disclosing or threatening to disclose an employer practice which is illegal and endangers the public. As an example, you may be able to collect damages if you got fired for threatening to expose an employer's illegal dumping of toxic waste, or refusing to disregard federal regulations while driving a truck long distance.
It should always be remembered that while you may have no legal recourse when being terminated for a capricious, arbitrary, or nonsensical reason, employers will typically use flimsy excuses to justify a termination to cover up the fact that the termination is actually based on one of these unlawful reasons. As such, if you have been terminated and reason given sounds strange or undeserved, it may be worth it to ask whether any of these situations may apply to you and call us to see about your options.
If you would like to see whether or not this, or other labor law protections, may apply to you, please click the buttons below to take the anonymous survey below, and one of the attorneys at the Law Office of Michael W. Wynn will get back to you.
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