Wrongful Termination Lawyers Serving New York City
It is illegal for an employer to fire an employee for discriminatory reasons, retaliatory reasons, or in breach of an employment contract. If this has happened to you, you might have suffered from what is known as wrongful termination. If this is the case, a skilled NYC employment lawyer at Lipsky Lowe will fight for you to right this wrong.
What is Wrongful Termination?
Many people use the term “wrongful termination” to describe when they feel they were unlawfully terminated. But there is, legally speaking, no cause of action called “wrongful termination.” A termination is unlawful only if it violates federal, state or local anti-discrimination or anti-retaliation laws, it breaches a contract or, in some instances, it violates public policy By contrast, it is lawful for an employer to fire an employee for performance reasons – even if the employer is totally misguided on the employee’s performance. The experienced attorneys at Lipsky Lowe can determine whether a termination was unlawful or not, and will develop a strategy to fight for you. Our goals will depend on your needs; these may include getting you reinstated in your previous position, protecting you from retaliation, or obtaining appropriate compensation for your lost wages and mental suffering.
How can there be “wrongful” termination if my employment is “at-will”?
In New York and New Jersey, as in most states, your employer is permitted to fire you “at will,” meaning she or he need not demonstrate “just cause” or any other reason for your dismissal, nor give you a warning notice of your impending discharge. Nonetheless, important exceptions exist to the “at will” clause, that gives rise to the concept of wrongful termination.
For one, your employer cannot violate a contract with you. For another, you cannot be fired because of your age, disability, gender, national origin, pregnancy, marital status, military service, ace, religion, sexual orientation, or other characteristics protected by law, as well as in retaliation for trying to enforce those protected rights. It may also be illegal for your employer to fire you in order to prevent you from collecting bonuses or benefits you are due to receive. If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated, you should consult with our attorneys as soon as possible so that they can evaluate the particulars of your situation to assess whether you have a viable case and, if so, to take appropriate actions promptly.
Written Contracts/Implied Promises
If you have a written contract with your employer, you cannot be fired “at will” if your dismissal violates that contract. If the contract ensures your job security for a certain period of time and that has not yet elapsed, you may be able to file a lawsuit against your employer. Similarly, if your employer has made promises to you, those promises may carry legal weight, particularly if you have emails or witnesses to back up your version of events. It should go without saying, however, that a contract can be legally terminated by your employer if you are discharged “for cause.” An acceptable “for cause” for dismissal in spite of a contract would include an illegal action, such as sexual assault, fraud or embezzlement.
Even though your employer can legally fire you for even the most arbitrary of reasons, your employer cannot legally fire you any of the following discriminatory reasons:
- Race or skin color
- Gender, gender identity, and transgender status
- Sexual orientation
- National origin
- Military Service
- Genetic information
- Caregiver status (e.g. being a parent)
If you suspect your termination occurred for any discriminatory reason, contact Lipsky Lowe quickly because not only are there time limitations on filing a claim for monetary compensation. The sooner you contact us, the more likely we are to be able to collect pertinent evidence or interview co-workers who will substantiate your claims.
Violations of Public Policy
Wrongful termination also occurs if you are fired for performing legitimate community actions, such as voting, serving in the military, or serving on a jury.
Breaches of Good Faith and Fair Dealing
It is illegal for your employer to fire you in order to prevent you from receiving a deserved bonus or a sales commission, or to fill your position with someone who will work for lower wages. Another breach of good faith and fair dealing is if your employer coerces you to quit in order to avoid paying you severance pay. In an effort to make you leave without being dismissed, your employer may make your working conditions unpleasant, pressure you unreasonably or move you to a less desirable location — all in an effort to force you out.
Whistleblowing and Retaliation
Federal, state and city law make it illegal for an employer to fire you for complaining about discrimination or harassment in the workplace. When you complain to your supervisor, manager or human resources about unlawful discrimination or harassment, you are engaging in what is called “protected conduct.” Employers violate federal, state and city law if they fire you for this protected conduct. They key here is that you must be complaining about unlawful harassment or discrimination. For example, harassment is unlawful if a supervisor is harassing you because of your age, race or national origin. Harassment is lawful if a supervisor is just very difficult and screams.
An employer will also violate federal law, called The Sarbanes-Oxley Act if you work at a publicly traded company and you get fired for complaining about securities fraud, shareholder fraud, bank fraud, a violation of any SEC rule or regulation, mail fraud, or wire fraud.
In New Jersey, the Conscientious Employee Protection Act or CEPA also protects whistleblowers who have complained of other violations of law and matters of public safety.
In some cases, wrongful termination is the result of false statements or even gossip that smears an employee’s reputation unfairly. Such defamatory statements may originate from a disgruntled co-worker or from your supervisor. You should be aware that defamation is often difficult to prove but the experienced lawyers at Lipsky Lowe can help you navigate whether you have a viable claim.
What Happens When We Win Your Case
Being wrongfully terminated is a painful experience, but winning your case or obtaining a favorable settlement can be extremely empowering, not only for you but for other possible victims of the same individual or company. When we win your wrongful termination case, you may be entitled to some or all of the following compensatory damages:
- Lost income from the date of wrongful termination to the present
- Future lost wages if you have been unable to find employment by the time of the trial
- Lost benefits, such as health insurance or stock options
- Emotional distress
- Attorneys’ fees
If your employer’s behavior has been particularly egregious, we may also be able to obtain punitive damages. Punitive damages are designed both to punish the defendant for especially vile conduct and to scare off any other employers tempted to behave in a similarly despicable manner.
Contact Our NYC Wrongful Termination Attorney
Put strength in your corner with Lipsky Lowe LLP. We will fight fervently for your rights. We may be able to get you rehired or obtain money to compensate you for damages, including lost wages and benefits, and emotional distress. Our attorneys are effective, efficient and caring. We are committed to giving you back your career and restoring your self-confidence. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.