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What rights do workers have against firing?

On Behalf of | Jun 22, 2022 | Employment Law |

New York’s private-sector employers can, in most cases, fire an employee without having good cause. But their discretion is not unlimited.

General protections

Although a private employer can fire workers for no or unfair reasons, New York’s employment law provides some rights for employees.

Regardless of the reason for firing, a terminated employee must have any outstanding wages paid to them by their next pay day. Employees may request that their last payment be sent by mail.

Employers must comply with employment contracts which restrict their reasons for firing, which is typically for good cause. Union contracts typically contain grievance procedures.

New York law, however, does not require that an employer provide employee access to their personnel file. Employers may also provide negative references if their reference is not comprised of false factual information or their opinion.

Unlawful reasons

Federal and state laws prohibit firings for specific reasons. The most common reasons include:

  • Discrimination based on race, religions, gender, national origin, sexual orientation, military status, or disability.
  • Submitting a complaint about a labor law violation to the employer or government agency.
  • Whistleblowing when a worker reports or refuses to engage in illegal activity that causes a substantial and specific danger to the public health and safety and the employee gave their employer a reasonable opportunity to correct the violation by bringing it to a supervisor’s attention.
  • Participation in lawful political or recreational activities during an employee’s personal time.
  • Filing a workers’ compensation or disability benefits claim or testifying before the workers’ compensation board.
  • Joining, forming, or supporting a union or acting with other employees to improve pay or working conditions.
  • Filing a claim or exercising rights under an employee benefit plan.
  • Taking leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.
  • Jury duty.
  • New York City employees taking sick leave or requesting paid sick leave.

Mass layoffs

Employers covered under the New York State Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act must provide at least 90 days’ notice to employees before a plant closing, mass layoff or other reduction in work hours covered under that law. Businesses which do not comply with the WARN Act may have to pay back wages and benefits to employees.

Attorneys can help assure that employers comply wit the law and that workers’ rights are protected. They can also represent them in investigations and lawsuits.