In New York, private-sector employers can fire their employees without a good reason. However, there are circumstances in which a discharge can be illegal. If you think you’ve been fired without a valid reason, you may be able to file a legal claim.
Violation of the employment contract
If you have an employment contract, the first thing you need to do is check it. Your contract may contain a clause saying that your boss can fire you only if you fail to meet certain requirements or benchmarks. If this is the case, and you did comply with your duties and responsibilities, your employer cannot fire you. Similarly, some contracts say that you can only be fired for “cause”. If you haven’t done anything that is defined as “cause” in the contract, your employer can’t fire you.
Your employer might not have said this directly to you, but your termination might have been a result of discrimination because of your race, color, nationality, sex, religion, disability, pregnancy, age or other classes as protected by New York law. Try to remember if anyone at work made any discriminatory comments while you worked there. If they did, it can be used as evidence that your termination was due to illegal discrimination.
There are many ways in which employers can illegally retaliate against their employees. If your employer fired you because of any of the following reasons, your discharge was illegal:
- Because you reported them to the authorities for any violation of the law
- Because you informed them of sexual harassment
- Because you tried to form a labor union
- Because you took family and medical leave
- Because you sat at a jury
- Because you participated in an official investigation into the employer’s practices
Also, your employer cannot fire you because you took time to vote or because you participated, on your own time, in political or recreational activities.
Protecting your rights
If any of these situations resonate with you, you should consult an attorney. There may be a basis to file a legal claim against your employer for wrongful termination. If you win the case, your employer will have to compensate your lost wages and, in some cases, other damages. No one deserves to be fired illegally, and you have the right to fight back.