You may also think: It’s not fair. That’s when you should contact a wrongful termination lawyer. New York labor law attorneys at The Sanders Firm can help determine whether your discharge was unlawful and advise you about the legal options. But the deadlines for filing a claim can be very short, so it’s important to contact a wrongful termination lawyer right away.
What is wrongful termination?
Most employees in the United States are “at-will” workers. That means they can be fired at any time, for any reason or no reason – unless the reason is unlawful. For example, an employee can be discharged for showing up late, or failing to keep up with assignments, or treating customers rudely. A manager can even terminate you because she doesn’t like the color of your hair or the way you dress. And, of course, you can be laid off if there isn’t enough work, or if the company is cutting its workforce to save money.
A termination becomes wrongful if it violates the law, is motivated by discrimination or violates an employment contract.
Under federal and New York State laws, it is unlawful to discharge an employee:
- Due to discrimination on the basis of age, creed, race, color, sex, sexual orientation, pregnancy, national origin, marital status, disability, military status, domestic violence victim status, arrest or conviction record, predisposing genetic characteristics
- In retaliation for exercising a legally-protected right, such as the right to organize a union, or complain about unsafe working conditions, or take time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act, or “blow the whistle” on illegal activities at work
- Because you refused to submit to sexual harassment
New York City protections are even broader. In the five boroughs, it is unlawful to terminate an employee on the basis of actual or perceived:
- National origin
- Gender, including actual or perceived sex and gender identity
- Marital status
- Partnership status
- Sexual orientation, including heterosexuality, homosexuality and bisexuality
- Immigration or citizenship status
That is, in New York City, an employer cannot terminate you simply because he believes that you are gay, or have a disability, or are over age 45, or any other “perceived” protected status.
Under both NY State and New York City law, it is unlawful to discharge a worker in violation of an employment contract. For example, a manager cannot terminate you on the spot if your contract requires two weeks’ notice. If a collective bargaining agreement requires “just cause” for discharge, a supervisor cannot fire you because he doesn’t like you. If your contract says that your working hours are 9 AM to 5 PM, Monday through Friday, you can’t be discharged for refusing to work a different shift.
It can be very complicated to determine whether a termination was wrongful. Not only are there many different protections under different laws, but it can often be difficult to demonstrate that your discharge was motivated by unlawful discrimination.
At The Sanders Firm, we have over 45 years experience in wrongful termination lawsuits. We know how to uncover the reasons for your discharge, advise you whether it was illegal, and describe your legal options.
How do I file a claim of wrongful termination?
Just as there are many different laws that prohibit wrongful discharge, there are many different agencies that handle such claims. If you were terminated on the basis of discrimination, depending on the type of discrimination you allege, you can file a claim with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or the New York State Division of Human Rights. Employees in New York City can complain to the New York City Commission on Human Rights.
Workers discharged in retaliation for reporting unsafe working conditions can file a claim with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration at the U.S. Department of Labor. If you were fired because you were organizing a union, you should file a charge with the National Labor Relations Board.
Employees terminated in violation of an individual employment contract can file a wrongful termination lawsuit in state court – unless the contract itself requires you to go to arbitration.
Regardless of the type of wrongful termination claim, you should always keep careful records. Write down who said what. Save emails that relate to your situation. Hold on to personnel records, time sheets, employee manuals, and other work documents.
Should I file a wrongful termination lawsuit?
Navigating the many federal, state, and private dispute resolution processes can be confusing. Sometimes you are eligible to file a claim with more than one agency, if your termination violated both anti-discrimination law and the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Sometimes you must go to New York State or New York City agencies instead of a federal agency, as when you charge that you were fired because you have an arrest or conviction record. Sometimes you have to file a claim with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, but can file a lawsuit in federal or state court if the agency refuses to proceed with your charge.
Wrongful termination lawyer New York
Because these procedures are so complex, it is essential for you to consult lawyers with expertise in wrongful termination law. Sanders Firm attorneys have decades of experience handling wrongful termination lawsuits and administrative claims. You can count on us to explain your options, walk you through the process, and make sure that your claims are heard in the right place at the right time.
Over the years we have recovered millions of dollars in back pay, lost benefits, and other compensation for victims of wrongful termination. Let us put our expertise to work for you. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation at 1-800-FAIR-PLAYor by visiting one of our offices in Manhattan, Brooklyn, or Long Island.
- NY State Division of Human Rights, “How to file a complaint,” http://www.dhr.ny.gov/
- New York City Commission on Human Rights, “New York City Human Rights Law,” January 30 2014 http://www.nyc.gov/html/cchr/downloads/pdf/human-rights/nyc-human-rights-law.pdf