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Wrongful Termination

Legal Advocacy for the Rights of Employees in New York City and Long Island

Almost all New York employees are at-will employees. That means that they can be fired for any reason or no reason. It is not required that the employer give a reason. Moreover, there is no recognition in New York for a claim of common law wrongful termination. However, your employer cannot fire you in violation of an employment contract or company policy manual that restricts your employer’s power, in violation of the Constitution, or in violation of an applicable statute, such as an anti-discrimination law or a whistleblower law. If you believe that you were fired illegally, you should consult our New York City wrongful termination lawyers.

Wrongful Termination Based on Discrimination or Retaliation

Employers can terminate you for any reason or no reason, unless you are protected under employment discrimination laws, whistleblower laws, or an implied or written employment contract. In New York City, your employer is not entitled to discriminate against you on the basis of your membership in any of multiple protected classes, including race, sex, sexual orientation, disability, age, national origin, pregnancy status, or marital status.

It is understandable to be concerned about filing a charge or complaint against your employer, but anti-discrimination laws include retaliation provisions. Your employer is not allowed to retaliate against you for asserting your rights under the New York City Human Rights Law, the New York State Human Rights Law, Title VII, or other federal anti-discrimination laws.

Wrongful Termination Based on Employment Contracts

Most of the time, employment is at will. This means that an employer can terminate you just for not liking you or for not liking your clothes, for example. Sometimes employers bind themselves with contracts in which an employee cannot be terminated except for just cause or during a certain term. In such cases, the terms of the contract decide the circumstances under which the employee can be terminated.

Sometimes an employment contract specifies that certain procedures should be followed in connection with a termination. If the employer does not follow those procedures, a wrongful termination attorney in New York City or Long Island can help the employee bring a claim.

Factual Disputes Over Firing

In some cases, the employer and the employee disagree about the facts leading up to the employee getting fired. An employee fired for leaving a little early might believe that he or she was fired wrongfully because he or she did not leave early. However, the termination was not wrongful because the employer is permitted to terminate the employee even if it misunderstood what happened.

Often, employers are generally aware of employment discrimination laws, even if they are fuzzy on the specifics. That means that they may find a pretextual reason to fire an employee when in fact they are terminating an employee based on his or her membership in a protected class. This is why it is important to talk to an attorney if you suspect that you were terminated due to a protected characteristic rather than an arbitrary reason. For example, if you lodge a complaint with HR because your coworkers keep sending racist memes and putting nooses on your desk, but then you are terminated, your employer might claim that it is because you took a lunch break that was five minutes too long. Then, a New York City wrongful termination attorney can help you determine whether you have a claim for racial harassment and retaliation.


If you are able to successfully establish a wrongful termination, you should be able to recover lost wages arising out of the illegal termination. Other remedies that may be available include emotional distress damages, punitive damages, and legal fees and costs. An employee who is terminated because of a Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) violation can recover double damages in addition to legal fees and costs. When you sue under a federal law that is enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, your compensatory and punitive damages would be capped. Under the New York City Human Rights Law, however, you can recover unrestricted punitive damages for employment discrimination or harassment, presuming that you can establish behavior that warrants the punitive damages.

Hire a Skillful Wrongful Termination Lawyer

It can be very difficult to go through a wrongful termination when you were promised that a job would last for a certain amount of time, or you were promised that you would only be terminated for just cause. Similarly, it is challenging to face a wrongful termination based on discrimination, harassment, or retaliation. Our wrongful termination lawyers know that New York City workers should be judged on their credentials and work performance, rather than their identities. If you are fired illegally, you should call the skillful employment litigators at Gerstman Schwartz at (212) 227-7070 or contact us online.

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