In New York, when an employee is fired for an unlawful reason, it is considered wrongful termination (laws). But unfair dismissals in New York are uncommon. This is thus because almost all New Yorkers work for themselves. Any cause or no reason at all may be used to terminate an at-will employee. It is not necessary to be fair. Maybe you’re wondering if you have a case for wrongful termination lawsuit. Employees can quit their jobs at any time, just like in other states. It follows that a worker can typically be let go at any time for any reason—or for no reason at all. But the at-will principle is not always applicable. For instance, you may be able to sue your employer in New York for wrongful termination if they fired you due to discrimination, in breach of an employment agreement, or as reprisal for exercising your rights. In this article, Eastcoastlaws.com will outline all you need to know about New York Wrongful Termination laws.
What Constitutes Wrongful Termination?
Wrongful termination (laws) in New York occurs when an employer terminates an employee in violation of the law or an employment contract. This can occur in the following circumstances:
- Discrimination: It is illegal to terminate an employee on the basis of their race, color, national origin, sex, age (if over 40), disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, or religion.
- Retaliation: An employer cannot fire an employee for engaging in legally protected activity, such as reporting discrimination or harassment, or filing a workers’ compensation claim.
- Contractual violations: If the employment relationship is governed by a contract, either written or implied, the employer may be prohibited from terminating the employee except in accordance with the terms of the agreement.
- Public policy violations: An employer cannot terminate an employee for reasons that violate public policy, such as reporting illegal activity or refusing to perform an illegal act.
- Fraud: If an employer terminates an employee based on false information, the termination may be considered wrongful.
It’s important to note that New York is an at-will employment state, meaning either the employer or the employee can end the employment relationship at any time, without cause or notice, except in the circumstances listed above.
A protected feature cannot be used by an employer as justification for terminating an employee, according to federal law. Employers cannot discharge workers due to their race, color, national origin, sex, pregnancy, religion, age (if they are at least 40), disability, citizenship status, or genetic information, according to federal law. However, these laws are only applicable to firms with a certain number of employees. Once an employer has at least 15 employees, most forms of discrimination are outlawed. However, the requirement for age discrimination is 20 employees, while the minimum for citizenship status discrimination is 4.
Employment discrimination is prohibited in New York on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, pregnancy, pregnancy status, religion, age (18 and older), disability, genetic information, sexual orientation, marital status, gender identity, arrest and conviction history, military service, Sabbath observance, political activities, unemployment status, or status as a victim of domestic abuse. If a New York employer has four or more employees, they must abide by these requirements.
Additionally, these rules forbid employers from punishing you for standing up for your rights. For instance, your employer may not punish or terminate you for complaining to the human resources department of your workplace that you feel you were passed over for a promotion because of your age. Similarly, you cannot be fired by your employer for taking part in an investigation into a complaint of discrimination (regardless of who submitted the complaint), giving testimony in court, or taking other actions to put an end to discriminatory practices.
You must register a complaint with the relevant government agency before bringing a discrimination or retaliation case. The state’s anti-discrimination statutes are enforced by the New York Division of Human Rights. Your complaint will frequently be filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the body responsible for enforcing federal anti-discrimination rules, by state fair employment practices authorities. But you should double-check to be certain. If so, you might also need to lodge a complaint with the EEOC; you can locate the address and phone number for the office that is closest to you on its Field Offices website.
Breach Of Employment Contract
You are not an at-will employee if you have a documented employment contract guaranteeing you a job. Additionally, oral agreements supported by written agreements or by provisions in an employee handbook upon which an employee reasonably relied are recognized as employment contracts in New York. For instance, if your employee handbook specifies that you won’t be fired until a particular number of disciplinary actions have been completed, your company might be required to execute those actions before letting you go. If your employer terminates your employment without cause and you have a contract, you may be able to sue for breach of contract.
New York Wage And Hour Laws And Issues
Employers are not permitted to discriminate against workers who exercise their legal rights under wage and hour legislation. Although New York City workers typically have a right to $15.00 an hour, employees in New York State will be entitled to a minimum wage of $11.80 in 2020. Use the minimum wage calculator provided by the New York Department of Labor to determine the rate that applies to you.
Employees who work more than 40 hours per week are entitled to overtime pay under both federal and New York law. Employees in New York are also entitled to unpaid meal breaks. The duration and timing of the break are determined by the nature of the work. Factory workers are entitled to a 60-minute meal break, but those who work in retail or for a commercial enterprise are only entitled to a 30-minute break. Employers who decide to provide breaks of 20 minutes or fewer must compensate their staff for that time, according to federal law. Even if the business refers to the time as a “break,” they must still pay their employees for whatever time they are required to work. See New York Wage and Hour Laws for more details.
Can You Sue For Wrongful Termination?
Yes, you can sue for wrongful termination (laws) in New York. If you believe that you have been wrongfully terminated, you may file a complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Alternatively, you can also bring a lawsuit to court.
It is important to note that there is a statute of limitations for filing a complaint or bringing a lawsuit. In New York, the time limit for filing a complaint with the Division of Human Rights is one year from the date of the alleged discrimination. The time limit for filing a complaint with the EEOC is also one year, but in some cases, it may be extended to 300 days.
If you choose to bring a lawsuit in court, it is advisable to consult with an attorney who specializes in employment law to discuss your rights and options. An attorney can help you determine whether you have a valid claim and can represent you in court if necessary.
How Do You Prove Wrongful Termination?
Proving wrongful termination can be challenging, as the burden of proof is on the employee. To prove wrongful termination, an employee must show that the termination was based on a legally protected characteristic (such as race, sex, age, etc.) or was in retaliation for engaging in protected activity (such as reporting harassment or discrimination).
The following are some ways to prove wrongful termination:
- Direct Evidence: Direct evidence of wrongful termination includes statements made by the employer indicating discriminatory or retaliatory intent, such as emails or memos.
- Circumstantial Evidence: Circumstantial evidence can include a pattern of discrimination or retaliation or evidence that the employer treated similarly situated employees differently.
- Company Policies and Procedures: Evidence of company policies and procedures can help demonstrate that the employer acted in a manner that was inconsistent with their own policies.
- Witness Testimony: Witness testimony can provide valuable evidence in a wrongful termination case. This can include testimony from co-workers, supervisors, or others who have relevant information about the termination.
- Documentation: Documentation can be used to prove wrongful termination, including performance evaluations, attendance records, and written complaints about harassment or discrimination.
In court, an employee must present enough evidence to support their claim and overcome the employer’s justification for the termination.
How Much Is The Average Wrongful Termination Settlement?
The amount of a wrongful termination settlement can vary widely depending on several factors, including the circumstances of the termination, the strength of the evidence, and the jurisdiction. Some settlements can be as low as a few thousand dollars, while others can reach hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Lawyers are often asked: “What’s the average settlement for wrongful termination?” Many wrongful termination settlement amounts fall in the range of $5,000 to $80,000, though some payouts can reach into the millions.
In general, the larger settlements tend to result from cases involving a clear violation of the law, such as discrimination or retaliation, or from cases involving a significant financial loss, such as loss of income or benefits. The settlement amount may also be influenced by the employer’s insurance coverage, the availability of witnesses, and the skill and experience of the attorney representing the employee.
It is important to keep in mind that settlement amounts can be influenced by a variety of factors, and it is not possible to predict with certainty what the settlement amount will be in any given case. An attorney can provide a better understanding of what to expect and can negotiate with the employer to reach a fair settlement amount.
Is It Hard To Prove Wrongful Termination?
Proving wrongful termination (laws) in New York can be challenging, as the burden of proof is on the employee. The employer’s justification for the termination must be overcome, and the employee must present sufficient evidence to support their claim.
The level of difficulty in proving wrongful termination depends on several factors, including the circumstances of the termination, the strength of the evidence, and the experience and skill of the attorney representing the employee. Cases involving clear violations of the law, such as discrimination or retaliation, are often easier to prove than cases based on more complex legal theories.
In some cases, an employer may have strong defenses or may dispute the evidence presented by the employee, making it difficult to prove the claim. In other cases, the evidence may be strong, and the employer may agree to settle the case before it goes to trial.
How Long Does A Wrongful Termination Case Take?
The length of a wrongful termination case can vary greatly depending on several factors, including the complexity of the case, the strength of the evidence, the willingness of the parties to reach a settlement, and the backlog of cases in the court system.
In general, a case that is settled out of court can be resolved more quickly than a case that goes to trial. Settlements can typically be reached in a few months or less, while a case that goes to trial can take several years to resolve.
If the case is filed with a government agency, such as the New York State Division of Human Rights or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the process can take several months or longer, as the agency investigates the claim and determines whether to take further action.
It is important to keep in mind that the length of a wrongful termination case can be influenced by many factors, and it is not possible to predict with certainty how long a case will take. An attorney can provide a better understanding of what to expect and can help ensure that the case is resolved as efficiently as possible.
Is A Wrongful Termination Settlement Taxable?
In the United States, most settlements received in a wrongful termination case are considered taxable income by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). This means that the employee must report the settlement amount as income on their tax return and pay taxes on the amount received.
There are some limited exceptions to this rule. For example, if a portion of the settlement is awarded to cover medical expenses or to compensate for physical injury, that portion may be tax-free. Additionally, damages for emotional distress are generally taxable, although some states, including New York, may provide for a more limited tax exclusion for such damages.
It is important to consult with a tax professional to determine the tax implications of a wrongful termination settlement and to ensure that the settlement amount is reported accurately on the tax return.
How Long Do You Have To File A Wrongful Termination Lawsuit?
A wrongful termination case has a 30-day to 3-year statute of limitations. Depending on the type of case and the location you choose to file, different deadlines apply.
How To File For Wrongful Termination in New York
To file for wrongful termination in New York, follow these steps:
- Gather evidence: Collect any documents or evidence that supports your claim, such as emails, letters, witness statements, or performance evaluations.
- Review state laws: Make sure your termination is illegal under New York law, such as discrimination, retaliation, or breach of contract.
- Contact the EEOC: File a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 180 days of the termination.
- File a lawsuit: If the EEOC does not resolve the issue, you may file a lawsuit in a state court within 2 years of the termination.
- Hire an attorney: Consider hiring an attorney who specializes in employment law to help with your case.
Note: It’s advisable to seek professional legal advice as the process and laws can vary depending on individual circumstances.