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What is Wrongful Termination?


Your questions about workers’ rights, answered

Wrongful termination laws protect your rights in the workplace. But what is wrongful termination? And how do you prove unlawful termination?

Wrongful termination means firing someone for an illegal reason. Even in at will employment states, employers cannot fire employees for illegal reasons, such as discrimination or retaliation. Keep reading for examples of wrongful termination, how to file a wrongful termination lawsuit, and legal advice from wrongful termination lawyers.

What constitutes a wrongful termination?

Wrongful termination occurs when an employer fires an employee for an illegal reason. Even in at will employment states, like New York, employers cannot fire people for illegal reasons such as discrimination or retaliation. For example, an employee fired as an act of disability discrimination or gender identity discrimination can file a suit for unlawful termination. Similarly, if an employer fires someone as a form of retaliation, the employee can sue.

Can you sue for wrongful termination?

Yes, employees can sue for wrongful termination. Laws protect employees from unlawful termination in every state. Even in at will employment states, employers cannot fire people for illegal reasons, including firing employees as an act of discrimination or retaliation. If you have been illegally terminated, contact an employment lawyer for a free consultation.

How do you prove wrongful termination?

In order to prove unlawful termination, employees must provide evidence that their employer fired them for an illegal reason. For example, if a supervisor told the employee they were being let go because of a protected disability, this could prove wrongful discharge. Circumstantial evidence can also prove unlawful termination. If an employee complained about sexual harassment and they were fired the next day, they may be able to prove unlawful termination.

In order to build a wrongful termination case, employees should keep written records of conversations with supervisors and document any causes for retaliation.

How much is the average wrongful termination settlement?

The amount of a wrongful termination settlement varies depending on the facts of the case. Many settlement agreements also contain a confidentiality clause. However, according to a survey conducted by Martindale-Nolo, people represented by a lawyer in their wrongful termination lawsuits received settlements significantly larger than those who represented themselves.

How much should I settle for wrongful termination?

The monetary amount of an unlawful termination settlement varies depending on the case, the evidence for unlawful termination, and the employee’s salary. Nationally, 10% of wrongful termination settlements top $1 million. A wrongful termination lawyer can help you receive a fair settlement for your case.

Is it hard to prove wrongful termination?

In order to prove unlawful termination, employees must provide evidence that their employer fired them for illegal reasons, such as discrimination or retaliation. Employees can strengthen their case by keeping records of conversations with supervisors and documenting actions that may trigger retaliation, such as testifying against their employer or filing an HR complaint.

How long does a wrongful termination case take?

A wrongful discharge case may take several months or the employer may offer a settlement within a few weeks. Cases that go to trial can require several years. The length of time varies depending on the case, the evidence, and the company. Victims of unlawful termination can reach out to a wrongful termination lawyer for a free consultation to learn more about how long their case may take.

What is the compensation for wrongful termination?

In an unlawful termination lawsuit, employees can ask for lost wages, lost benefits, and emotional distress. Many companies choose to settle unlawful termination cases out of court. Wrongful termination settlement amounts cover a wide range; contact a wrongful termination lawyer to discuss the specifics of your case.

Is a wrongful termination settlement taxable?

Yes, employees must pay taxes on parts of wrongful firing settlements. This includes compensatory damages, punitive damages, and lost wages. Any settlement amounts for back pay, lost wages, and future pay may also be subject to tax withholdings and payroll taxes. However, some parts of the settlement are not subject to tax. Consult an attorney for additional wrongful termination legal advice. 

How long does an employment lawsuit take?

The length of an unlawful termination lawsuit varies depending on the facts of the case, whether the employer chooses to offer a settlement, and the evidence. Some cases may settle in a matter of weeks, while others can take several years of litigation. Wrongful termination lawyers can provide additional information during a free consultation.

How long do you have to file a wrongful termination lawsuit?

The statute of limitations on an unlawful termination lawsuit ranges from 30 days up to 3 years. The time limit varies depending on the type of case and where you choose to file. Once the statute of limitations expires, you can no longer receive any monetary compensation. Contact a wrongful termination lawyer as soon as possible for a free consultation to file your wrongful discharge lawsuit.

How many years do you have to file a discrimination lawsuit?

In addition to filing a wrongful termination lawsuit, you may also file a discrimination lawsuit. The statute of limitations for a discrimination lawsuit varies depending on where you choose to file. Federal laws limit EEOC discrimination claims to within 300 days of the discriminatory actions, while New York state and New York City laws provide up to 300 days. New York state law also allows people to file a discrimination lawsuit in state court for up to three years.

Can I sue my employer for firing me for no reason?

It depends. You may be able to sue your employer for unlawful termination, depending on the situation. In at will employment states, employers do not have to provide a reason to fire someone. However, employers cannot fire someone for being a whistleblower, because of their race, gender, or religion, or as an act of retaliation. Employers also cannot violate the employment contract by firing an employee. In these cases, you can file a suit for unlawful termination.

Can an at will employee be fired without cause?

Yes, employers can fire employees without cause in an at will employment state such as New York. However, employers cannot fire people for illegal reasons. This includes firing an employee for acting as a whistleblower or as a form of retaliation. Employers also cannot fire employees for discriminatory reasons.

Can I sue for wrongful termination in New York?

Yes; employees can file a lawsuit if their employer illegally fires them. Unlawful termination can include firing someone because of their race, religion, gender, disability status, or membership in another protected category, or firing someone as a form of retaliation. For example, if an employer fired an employee for testifying against the company in a discrimination case, that qualifies as illegal termination.  

Is NY an “at will state” for employment?

Yes, New York is considered an at will employment state. That means employers can fire employees without providing a “just cause,” for a good reason, a bad reason, or no reason at all.  However, even in at will states, employers cannot fire people for illegal reasons. For example, employers cannot fire people because they are in a protected group based on their race, religion, or gender. Employers also cannot fire employees as an act of retaliation.

Can you get fired for no reason in NY?

Yes, your employer can fire you without a reason. However, under New York laws, employers cannot fire people for illegal reasons. While New York is an at will employment state, meaning employers do not have to provide a “just cause,” the laws still protect employees from unlawful termination. Firing someone as an act of discrimination or retaliation violates the law.

What is the statute of limitations on wrongful termination in New York?

The statute of limitations for unlawful termination lawsuits in New York ranges from 30 days to 3 years, depending on the type of claim. After the statute of limitations runs out, victims of wrongful firing can no longer file a claim to recover monetary damages. Contact a wrongful termination lawyer as soon as possible for a free consultation.

Is a termination letter required in NY?

Yes; New York Labor Law requires that employers provide a letter of termination to employees. The letter must be in writing and list the date of termination and the date when the employee’s benefits will be cancelled. Employers must provide a termination letter within five days after terminating employment.

What can you do about wrongful termination?

If you are the victim of unlawful termination, federal and state laws protect your rights. You can file a wrongful discharge lawsuit to receive lost wages, lost benefits, and compensation for emotional distress. Unlawful termination laws also protect from FMLA wrongful termination. A qualified wrongful termination lawyer can help.

In the New York City area, wrongful termination lawyer Charles Joseph offers free consultations to determine whether you can file an unlawful termination lawsuit.

Learn more about your rights under New York wrongful termination laws.

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