Rochester Employment Lawyer Explains Unlawful Termination in New York
If you’ve recently experienced being fired for something that you didn’t consider your fault, or that you think was illegal, then you’re probably wondering whether or not it can be considered unlawful termination. Let’s get the bad news out the way right off the bat, the majority of employees in the United States are “at-will”. That means that, essentially, your employer has the discretion to fire you for any reason. But there’s a big caveat to that. An employer cannot fire an employee for any reasons that violate an employment contract, break company policy, or are deemed illegal.
Unfortunately, the truth of the matter is that you may think you have been treated unfairly, but unless there is an illegal basis for your job loss, you probably can’t argue unlawful termination. “At-will” employees actually have far fewer “rights” than they might believe they do in the workplace. Sorry to say, but just because you didn’t deserve to lose your job, it doesn’t necessarily make your termination illegal in the eyes of the law. But in order to determine whether or not your termination was wrongful, you first need to understand what constitutes unlawful termination.
What Constitutes Unlawful Termination?
The vast majority of people who think they have been fired for unlawful reasons are unpleasantly surprised to find their employer wasn’t legally in the wrong. What’s more, something that might feel like a discriminatory action may not actually be categorized as one in the eyes of the law. You’ll also need to prove that the actions of your employer were illegal before you really have any ground to stand on in an unlawful termination lawsuit. That being said, there are certain reasons that you can be fired for that absolutely, and rightfully do, constitute unlawful termination.
Here are some of the top things that your employer cannot legally fire you for:
- Discriminatory reasons: these include the loss of a job based on race, gender, religion, age, or disability. For example, termination for announcing a pregnancy would be considered discriminatory. Or being fired for taking a break to eat because you are diabetic and need to watch your blood sugar levels more carefully.
- Retaliation reasons: you cannot legally be fired for reporting any discriminatory or illegal practices within the workplace. Examples of workplace retaliation include an employer firing an employee who has filed a workers compensation claim, or for speaking to HR about sexual harassment concerns.
- Breach of employment contracts: if you were fired for any reason other than what is stated in an employment contract, the termination may be unlawful.
To re-iterate, if you do not have an employment contract, then you are considered an “at-will” employee. This means that your employer does legally retain the right to fire you for any reason other than those stated above. Before pursuing an unlawful termination lawsuit, you should think carefully about your situation and consider whether or not your employer’s practices were actually illegal, You may feel they were unfair and be stung by your job loss, but that won’t necessarily hold up in a court of law.
But, if you still believe that you were fired for an illegal reason, what should you do about it?
How To File a Claim for Wrongful Termination
If you believe that you are experiencing discrimination or retaliation at work before you are fired, take action right away. It’s better not to wait until you lose your job to say something about ill practices within the workplace. If you feel that your job is being threatened and are concerned about discrimination, breach of contract, or retaliation, contact an attorney immediately to discuss your rights.
The sooner you start to speak up, the more of a paper trail you can leave, which will only strengthen an unlawful termination lawsuit if it comes to that. An experienced attorney will be able to advise you on what to do. For example, making internal complaints or gathering evidence and documentation. Having physical evidence of discriminatory or retaliatory behavior can work wonders in your favor in a lawsuit, so make sure to keep emails, text messages, or anything else you believe could strengthen a case.
Try to take action and contact a lawyer as soon as possible. The sooner you can get help, the better. An experienced Rochester employment lawyer can proactively give you advice, but there’s also a statute of limitations on unlawful termination lawsuits. In most cases, you have 180 days from the date of your termination to file a lawsuit based on discrimination charges against your employer.
While there are plenty of steps you can take, there are also some steps you should never take. Whatever you do, don’t retaliate yourself. Avoid publicly shaming or criticizing your employer. It’s also advisable to be careful with who you discuss the situation with.
If you can’t sue for wrongful termination, you may be able to file an emotional distress lawsuit. This is usually reserved for instances where an employee believes that the actions taken by a company or management have caused the employee to experience feelings of fear, embarrassment, shame, PTSD, or depression. These cases, however, are not easily won. If you intend to file an emotional distress lawsuit, be prepared to have significant evidence that the employer acted with intention and caused serious emotional harm. It should also be noted that emotional distress lawsuits are not a possibility in every state.
If you believe that you have been the victim of unlawful termination and wish to learn more about your rights, contact attorney Michelle Cimino of The Cimino Law Firm for a confidential consultation. We have over 20 years of experience helping people file, and win, unlawful termination claims.
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