While employers can terminate employees for nearly any reason, there are still limitations as to when this is legal or not. Wrongful termination refers to an event where an employee’s termination occurs unlawfully. Despite strict employment laws, it happens more often than you think. Fortunately, employees can sue for wrongful termination.
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a total of 67,448 wrongful termination charges were filed in 2020. Of those, 32.7% filed for racial discrimination, and 31.7% claimed sexual discrimination.
There are many types of discrimination. If your employer fired you for any of the following reasons, it may count as unlawful, and you can sue for wrongful termination.
There are many types of discrimination. If your employer fires you for any of the following reasons, it may count as wrongful termination.
- You have blown the whistle on your superior’s wrongdoings.
- Your employer fires you based on your age (as per federal law, it’s over 40, but New York State law offers protection for workers younger than 40), disability, or pregnancy.
- Your employer has breached your contract.
- Your employer has violated public policies or any other laws.
Even in cases of at-will employment, an employer cannot fire workers for illegal causes. In case this happens, you reserve the right to sue for wrongful termination.
1. Prove It Was Wrongful Termination
Like most employees in the U.S., employees in New York are employed at-will, meaning that employers do not need definitive grounds to fire them. As long as the reason isn’t discriminatory or retaliatory, your employer can terminate your employment at any time.
In fact, many employers offer little or no explanation when firing an employee. They may even try to portray the termination as a layoff. That said, proving unlawful termination is challenging. You’ll need a significant amount of evidence to prove your claim when suing for wrongful termination. Common types of evidence you can use for suing for wrongful termination include:
- A copy of your contract
- Relevant communications between you and your employers, such as emails, texts, and voicemails
- Testimonies from witnesses
- Hiring and firing documents or any paperwork relevant to your employment
However, each employee’s unfair termination lawsuit is different. You may need to furnish additional evidence or paperwork to file a complaint. If you are unsure about collecting the evidence on your own or don’t know what to do, contact an experienced employee rights lawyer in New York. They will help you build a solid case.
2. File a Complaint
Filing an unfair termination lawsuit may not be as cut-and-dry as it seems. After collecting relevant evidence, you will have to lodge a wrongful termination claim with the EEOC.
When suing for wrongful termination, you can either visit the EEOC’s website, call their primary number, or visit a nearby Fair Employment Practice Agency (FEPA) to file a complaint. Once the EEOC receives your complaint, they will investigate it thoroughly. In most cases, the EEOC will ask both the employee and employer to resolve the issue through mediation.
If either party fails to settle, the investigation will continue. The EEOC may try to resolve the issue through mediation or reconciliation at any stage. Once the investigation is over, the EEOC will either sue your employer on your behalf (public hearing) or provide you with a right-to-sue letter. You have 90 days after receiving the letter to file a lawsuit.
If the investigation yields unsatisfactory results, you can still file a lawsuit against your employer within 90 days. However, there are strict time limits for filing a wrongful termination complaint with the EEOC.
Usually, you have 300 days to file the charges if state or local anti-discrimination laws also apply. But you may have only 180 days to report discrimination in some cases. Working with an employee rights attorney can help you file charges within deadlines.
3. Consult An Employment Rights Lawyer
Given how complicated wrongful termination cases can get, you don’t want to take on the task of fighting a wrongful termination case alone. An experienced New York employee rights lawyer can guide you in the right direction. Your employer will have a lawyer, so you can’t afford to go without one.
Needless to say, going up against your employer because you believe you were wrongfully terminated can be tricky. Your termination should fit the legal definition to substantiate your claim. Only a lawyer can help you interpret the law and determine where your case stands. They will explain everything so it’s easy to understand.
An employee rights attorney makes it easier to obtain evidence, gather witnesses, and determine the best way to pursue your claim. They can also help you bring charges to the EEOC and other agencies if required. But most importantly, your lawyer will help you assess your financial losses and ensure you are rightfully compensated.
When Can You Sue for Wrongful Termination?
It is common to wonder when you can sue for wrongful termination. You may sue your employer if:
- They breached your employment contract.
- They retaliated against you for making a complaint or whistleblowing on illegal behavior.
- They violated federal and state anti-discrimination laws.
- They breached company policy.
If you were wrongfully terminated, you’ll have to act quickly and sue your employer within a specific timeframe after being fired. In legal terms, this period of time is called the statute of limitations, which varies by state and the specific nature of your wrongful termination. Some laws might require you to file an administrative complaint before taking your case to trial.
Wrongful termination claims can fall under different laws. Some claims can be covered by both state and federal law. If this happens, you’ll need to adhere to multiple statutes of limitations. Dealing with this can get extremely daunting and stressful for the layperson.
This is where having an experienced New York wrongful termination lawyer in your corner can work in your favor. With their legal advice and guidance on how and when you can sue for wrongful termination, you’ll know just how to proceed with the legal formalities and processes.
Fight Unfair Termination with a New York Employee Rights Attorney
Despite strict federal and state laws, many employees experience wrongful termination. The good news is that you have the right to sue your employer if they fire you for illegal reasons. However, before you file charges with the EEOC, you will need to collect evidence to build your case. An employee rights attorney can help you navigate these legal waters effortlessly, providing you advice every step of the way.
At Brown Kwon & Lam, we leave no stone unturned to protect employee rights. If you feel you were wrongfully terminated, contact us today.