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When does a firing become a case of wrongful termination?

In New York's competitive workforce, keeping a job is a necessity. Also, job security, income and benefits are a big help for New Yorkers and their families because the uncertain economy has yet to stabilize. However, if an employee is unexpectedly laid off from work without a specified reason, a worker will no doubt wonder if the firing was legal or if it may be a possible case of wrongful termination. It is important that a terminated worker know the nuances of wrongful discharge to find out the facts of the firing and formulate any possible response.

Can employers just fire workers? Most employees in New York are identified as "at-will" employees. This means that they can be fired at any time for a number of reasons. However, despite being identified as an at-will employee, an employer cannot fire a worker for a reason that is considered illegal as identified by state and federal laws. What reasons are considered illegal? Discrimination-based firing is a good reason to file a case for wrongful termination. New York and federal laws prohibit firing a worker because of gender, race, nationality, age, religion or disability.

Employers also cannot fire workers who file complaints with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration because of workplace violations. Employees who refuse to commit illegal activities on behalf of an employer or those who report illegal actions of an employer to authorities are also protected by law from wrongful dismissal. Employers can be punished for firing workers who take leave or exercise employee benefits earned by the employee.

What if a worker files a wrongful termination claim and the employer retaliates? Retaliation is illegal under New York and federal law. Workers subjected to retaliation can seek employment law advice from a professional about the possible compensation they can seek against the employer.

Source:, "Wrongful Termination Laws: Illegal Reasons," Accessed on Sept. 16, 2014

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