Siobhan Klassen is an employment attorney at the New York City office of Phillips & Associates. Super Lawyers, a rating services that names top attorneys in numerous practice areas in every state, deemed Ms. Klassen a Rising Star in New York in 2017 and 2018. Super Lawyers regularly asks Rising Stars to address issues of public interest and recently asked Ms. Klassen to address whether a person can pursue a wrongful termination claim against his or her employer in New York.
Grounds for a Wrongful Termination Claim in New York
Although in many cases a terminated employee will have no grounds to file a wrongful termination claim against his or her employer, if the employee can prove particular factors lead to his or her termination, he or she may have a valid wrongful termination claim. In sum, wrongful termination happens whenever an employer fires an employee illegally. Examples of illegal grounds for terminating an employee include retaliation and discrimination.
Ms. Klassen clarified that most individuals are at-will employees, which means they can be terminated at any time, whether or not there is a reason for their termination, providing the purported reason for the termination is not illegal. If a person is terminated for exercising his or her legal rights at work or for a discriminatory reason, it may be considered wrongful termination, however.
As Ms. Klassen illustrated, several federal laws bar employers from terminating an employee because of his or her membership in a protected class. Examples of protected classes are a person’s race, national origin, religion, sex, color, disability, and age. The protections afforded by federal law generally are only applicable if the employer has at least fifteen employees.
Employees are protected under the New York Human Rights Law (NYHRL) as well. The NYHRL offers greater protection than the federal anti-discrimination laws, prohibiting discrimination against people because of their sexual orientation or due to the fact that they are victims of domestic violence. Additionally, the NYHRL applies to an employer with four or more employees.
As Ms. Klassen noted, while a retaliation claim is different from a wrongful termination claim, the two claims are frequently related. If an employer commits acts that adversely affect a person’s employment because the person exerted a legal right, it may constitute retaliation. In other words, if a person reports conduct occurring at work that violates a law or public policy and is subsequently terminated for reporting the conduct, the person may be able to pursue a retaliation claim. Another example of conduct that may constitute retaliation is an employer terminating an employee or denying him or her a promotion because the employee filed a discrimination or workers’ compensation claim. It is common for an employer accused of wrongful termination to allege it had a valid reason for committing the acts that adversely affected the person’s employment to avoid liability.
Consult a New York Attorney Proficient in Handling Employment Discrimination Cases Regarding Your Claims
If you were recently terminated in violation of the law, you might have grounds to seek damages via a claim for wrongful termination. Ms. Klassen and the skillful employment discrimination attorneys of Phillips & Associates will analyze the circumstances surrounding your termination to determine whether you may be able to seek compensation from your employer. You can contact us at (212) 248-7431 or through the form online to set up a consultation regarding your claims. We represent people in wrongful termination lawsuits in New York City, as well as in Westchester, Nassau, and Suffolk Counties, and in New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.