Understanding Wrongful Termination - April 2019

New York is an at-will employment state, meaning that businesses can hire and fire employees as they need them. They can fire someone because staffing needs have changed or for no reason at all. Wrongful termination in New York occurs when your employer fires you, not for a legitimate reason, but for a (usually) underlying discriminatory reason. What is a “discriminatory reason”? It can be a termination because of an employee’s protected class or retaliation because the employee complained of harassment or discrimination based on his/her protected class.

What Are Protected Classes?

Under New York discrimination laws, the protected classes are:

  • Age
  • Sex/Gender (including sexual harassment)
  • Gender
  • Race
  • Religion
  • National origin
  • Disability (actual or perceived / temporary or permanent)
  • Need for medical leave due to a disability
  • Pregnancy status
  • Marital status
  • Sexual orientation

For example, if you are fired specifically because you became pregnant or because you needed time off to care for a disability (physical or psychological) then you may have a case for wrongful termination. However, because a business can let an employee go for no reason at all, it can sometimes be difficult to prove your termination occurred for an unlawful reason. However, timing and circumstantial evidence are important factors that can help show intent or discriminatory animus.

Retaliatory Firing

Federal and state laws also prevent companies from firing an employee in retaliation for the employee having reported what he/she reasonably believed was unlawful harassment or discrimination based on a protected class. Note: The discrimination laws do not protect against an “unfair” firing unless the unfairness is due to a person’s protected class. Also, while New York is an “at-will” employment state, you may have a contractual right against termination if you have an employment contract or are in a union (regardless of the discrimination laws).

What if I Was Wrongfully Terminated?

If you do have a case for wrongful termination, you can bring an action against your employer to recover lost income, damages for emotional distress, and possibly punitive damages, legal fees and costs. It is important to talk to an attorney and have a realistic understanding of what will likely happen when, or if, you file a lawsuit. This will, of course, vary depending on the facts of your case, supporting evidence, circumstantial evidence, etc.

One advantage of hiring Phillips & Associates is that we are a big firm that only represents employees. Therefore, the big law firm your old employer hires to defend itself won’t out gun you. For a free consultation, call the experienced New York discrimination and wrongful termination attorneys at Phillips & Associates today at (866) 229-9441.

At Phillips & Associates, We Level the Playing Field

Employees were, and for the most part still are, at a big disadvantage in the workplace. There is a dramatic power imbalance between employees and the companies for which they work. This power balance can intensify after experiencing sexual harassment or discrimination. The company/employer often hires a large law firm to represent it, while the employee may have just lost their job, have very little money and no one to help them understand their rights. At Phillips & Associates, we have the experience, staffing, and financial backing to keep the playing field level. People need to take a close look at the lawyer or law firm they want to hire and determine if that lawyer or firm has the funds, experience and the resources to properly litigate their case.

Phillips & Associates is one of the largest plaintiffs’ only employment law firms in New York. The firm handles cases involving sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace including pregnancy, race, disability, religion, gender, and sexual orientation and other protected traits. Phillips & Associates also handles other areas of harassment at work such as retaliation and wrongful termination. Most recently, the American Institute of Legal Counsel selected Phillips & Associates as one of the “10 Best Employment & Labor Law Firms in New York.”

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