Joe Carbonaro is a Top NYC Employment Lawyer

Hiring and firing employees can be tricky. There are legal implications for both, and you should be well-informed before you do either. As a NYC employment lawyer, I represent both management and small business owners in all employment and labor-related matters. My goal is to avoid the dispute before it happens and, when a dispute cannot be avoided, to quickly and efficiently resolve it.

I can help you with:

•  Employment contracts
•  Sound hiring and termination practices
•  Covenants not to compete
•  Preliminary injunctions
•  Discrimination matters
•  Sexual harassment claims
•  EEOC, NYS Division of Human Rights and NYC Commission on Human Rights complaints
•  Employee handbooks
•  Labor-management relations and collective bargaining agreements
•  Arbitration of labor disputes
•  All litigation

New York law is generally very pro-employer and pro-business. When you hire an employee, you enter into a contract with that person. In New York that contract is an “at-will” employment contract, meaning you can terminate the employee at any time, for any reason, or for no reason, provided that you don’t consider race, sex or other factors (see below). However, when you hire someone, you run the risk of saying or doing something that might lead the employee to believe that he or she can’t in fact be fired at any time for any reason. In other words, if you aren’t careful when hiring, you may inadvertently create an employment contract that gives the employee greater rights than New York state law does. This is why you’re wise to develop uniform policies when hiring, making it clear in writing that the employment is at-will and that nothing in your employee handbook or elsewhere should be taken to mean otherwise.

When firing an employee, even if for a legitimate business reason, you run the risk of litigation, especially if the employee is in a protected class based on race, sex, age, sexual orientation (in New York City), national origin, or creed. There are myriad ways an employee can claim that he or she was the victim of discrimination on one of these grounds, even without any basis. For example, if you terminate a female employee over age 40 and replace her with a male under age 40, you run the risk of an age or sex discrimination complaint that, on its face, might look plausible. While courts are skeptical of these cases, they’re expensive to litigate and often not covered by insurance. Litigation fees alone can run into the tens of thousands of dollars. There are ways to decrease the likelihood of such claims, including employment separation agreements. But such agreements are often complex and must be written in compliance with both state and federal law.

When employees complain of discrimination, it’s best to address their complaints immediately. They can often be resolved with a minimum of time and expense. When they can’t, it’s prudent to retain experienced employment/labor counsel. I have experience in litigating claims for both employers and employees. That gives me an edge because I understand how both sides think, and understand what they need to make the case go away. My experience includes litigating employment discrimination in New York State and federal courts under anti-discrimination laws of every kind, including to the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. I ‘ve also litigated claims brought under provisions of various collective bargaining agreements, including binding arbitration.

Conferring with an experienced employment attorney, like myself, is advisable. Many problems can be avoided by using a consistent, transparent hiring and firing process. Of course, when the inevitable problem with an employee arises, it’s imperative to have able counsel to represent you.