Phillips & Associates

Siobhan Klassen Talks to Super Lawyers Regarding Whether You Can Sue Your Employer for Wrongful Termination in New York

Siobhan Klassen

Siobhan Klassen is a New York City employment attorney at Phillips & Associates. She was named as a New York Rising Star in 2017 and 2018 by Super Lawyers, a service that identifies top practitioners in each state in a wide variety of practice areas. Super Lawyers also enlists attorneys listed as Super Lawyers and Rising Stars to answer questions of public concern. Super Lawyers recently engaged Ms. Klassen to discuss whether you can sue your employer for wrongful termination in New York.

What Constitutes Wrongful Termination Under New York Law

If your employer terminated you, you might be understandably upset and frustrated. If you can prove certain facts, you may be able to pursue a wrongful termination claim against your employer. Essentially, a wrongful termination occurs any time that an employer illegally terminates an employee. Common grounds for wrongful termination include discrimination and retaliation.

First, as Ms. Klassen noted, most employment is at-will, which means that your employer can terminate you at any time, for any reason or without stating a reason, as long as your termination does not violate a law. If your employer terminated you because you asserted a legal right in the workplace or because of your inclusion in a protected class, however, it may constitute a wrongful termination.

Ms. Klassen explained that numerous federal laws prohibit an employer from terminating an employee due to the fact that the employee is a member of a protected class. These classes include a person’s national origin, race, religion, color, sex, age, or disability. The protections under the federal laws typically only apply to employers with 15 or more employees.

The New York Human Rights Law not only provides the same protections afforded under the federal laws but also expands the protections provided to employees, barring discrimination against employees because they are victims of domestic violence or because of their sexual orientation. Furthermore, the New York Human Rights Law applies to employers with at least four employees.

If you were terminated due to your inclusion in a class protected by local, state, or federal laws, it may constitute discrimination and may be actionable as wrongful termination. For example, if you were fired due to the fact that you were older than the rest of the employees at your job, or because you were pregnant, you may be able to pursue a claim against your employer.

Claims for Retaliation

Ms. Klassen then explained that retaliation claims are distinct from wrongful termination claims, but the claims are often related. Retaliation occurs when an employer takes an adverse employment action against an employee because the employee exercised a legal right. For example, if an employee reports an activity that is occurring in the workplace that is illegal or is against public policy, and the employee is terminated or subjected to a hostile work environment as a result, he or she may have a claim for retaliation. Similarly, if an employee files a workers’ compensation claim or a discrimination claim, and the employee is denied a promotion or fired due to the claim, this likely constitutes retaliation as well.

Proving retaliation can be challenging, since employers typically argue that they had a legitimate reason for taking the adverse employment action against the employee. In some cases, an employer may criticize an employee’s work performance prior to the termination to refute a potential retaliation claim.

Meet with an Experienced Employment Discrimination Attorney to Discuss Your Case

If your employer terminated you in violation of a local, state, or federal law, you may be able to pursue a wrongful termination claim. Ms. Klassen and the other experienced wrongful termination attorneys at Phillips & Associates can meet with you to discuss your case and your options for seeking to recoup the financial losses caused by your termination. We can be reached at (212) 248-7431 or via our online form to schedule a meeting regarding your case. We assist employees in wrongful termination claims in New York City and Westchester, Nassau, and Suffolk Counties, as well as in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

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