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Understanding what makes a termination wrongful under the law

On Behalf of | Feb 26, 2024 | Firm News |

When an employee is fired from a job they love, it could be a devastating blow to their lives. Many employees in New York do not think they deserve to be fired and are completely blindsided when a human resources representative or manager calls them into their office and tells them they no longer work there.

Employees often think they deserve to be given a good reason as to why they were fired. However, under at-will employment laws in New York, the reason does not have to be good or seem fair, as long as it is legal. The reason for your termination can be as simple as the boss not liking your personality.

What makes a reason for termination illegal?

For a reason for termination to be considered legal, it must be non-discriminatory or otherwise illegal. Unlawful reasons for termination may include:

  • Terminating someone based on their membership in a protected class (e.g., race, gender, or religion).
  • Terminating someone in violation of their employment contract signed at the time of the employee’s hiring.
  • Terminating someone to retaliate against them for reporting illegal workplace practices, filing a harassment complaint, or otherwise engaging in a protected activity.

Establish and defending against wrongful termination

The burden of proof is on the plaintiff, which is typically the employee, to establish that they were wrongfully terminated based on a preponderance of the evidence. Employers must defend against wrongful termination charges by proving that they were legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons for the employee’s termination.

Correspondence between the employee and the employer employee handbook and employee contracts are commonly used as evidence in wrongful termination cases. Witness testimony from other employees may also be useful.