New York, like most states, has "at-will" employment. This means if the employment contract does not state the duration of the work or the grounds for termination, then employees may be terminated at any time, for any reason, or no reason at all. On the other hand, employees may quit whenever they want.
There are some exceptions to this rule. It is illegal to terminate an employee due to discrimination; being a victim of sexual harassment; reporting illegal conduct of an employer; for whistleblowing; or if the termination is in violation of an employment contract.
Under federal law, employers cannot fire an employee based on a protected characteristic such as race, color, national origin, sex, pregnancy, religion, age, disability, and citizenship status.
Under New York law, employers cannot discriminate based on race, color, national origin, sex, pregnancy, religion, disability, age, marital status, AIDS/HIV, or sickle cell trait. An employer cannot terminate you based on discriminatory reasons. There are state, city, and federal laws that focus on preventing discrimination against members of a protected class.
Under the laws of New York and under federal laws, employees have the right to report illegal conduct on that happens on their job and from their employers to the proper authorities. This type of reporting by employees is often referred to as “whistleblowing.” The whistleblowing laws protect an employee from employer retaliation, such as termination, for reporting corruption or other wrongdoing by the company.
However, employers are not given the absolute power to fire their employees for no reason whatsoever. Public policy concerns prevent employers from firing their employees as a mean of retaliation.
New York employees are protected from firing in retaliation for reporting unlawful discrimination by their employer or bringing a civil action for discrimination. But the employee must have done so in good faith. If the employee knowingly brings a false claim of unlawful discrimination, he is not protected.
Additionally, employees in New York cannot be terminated or otherwise disciplined for reporting violations of state labor laws. This includes reporting violations of health and safety laws and minimum wage.
Note that if an employer’s actions, policies, or practices appear to create a significant danger to the public, then an employee has a right to disclose such conduct and be free from retaliatory termination.
New York provides many types on damages for employees that win in wrongful termination lawsuits. Some of the possible monetary damages are lost wages, lost benefits, pain and suffering, punitive damages, and attorneys’ fees.
All employees should be aware that they have the duty to mitigate their damages. This means that the employee has the responsibility to seek new employment and document all the steps they have taken to find a new job. This is important because you may be entitled to the difference between your salary of your old job and your new job.
A qualified New York lawyer can help determine whether you have a legal basis for a claim. Moreover, he can help you navigate the legal system and represent you such that you will recover all of the monetary damages you deserve.