ny-labor-laws-joe-carbonaro-top-employment-lawyerOne of the most frequent  Labor Law questions that we get is usually phrased like this; ‘Have I been wrongfully fired?’, or ‘If xyz happened, can my employer legally fire me?’ Because of this, we are taking the time to lay out a comprehensive guide to NY Labor Laws definitions of when being fired is legal, and when it is illegal in the state of NY. All of the situations that we will reference in this blog will be in the realm of ‘Private Sector’, or non-government employment. So let’s begin with the most important point: when is being fired illegal?

NY Labor Laws: When is being fired illegal?

  1. When your employee manual says it is: In other words, there are times when an employee manual, or employee contract at a certain firm will lay out specific guidelines to the procedure of being fired. For example; the manual may state that in the situation that an employee is not meeting the job standard, that employee will be sat down for a performance review. Here, the employee will be give a time frame to enhance their performance. If their performance is still not meeting standards, the employee will be fired. If said employee finds themselves in a situation where they are being fired without the preliminary performance review and grace period, they may have grounds to sue. Be sure to read your employee manuals.
  2. When it is against the NY Human Rights Law: The Human Rights Law states that in the state of New York, an employee cannot be fired on the grounds of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, age, marital status or disability. In short, NY labor labor laws are clear that if you feel that you have been fired due to discrimination , you should report your situation to New York City Commission on Human Rights, or call an experienced employment lawyer.
  3. When your Union contract is on your side: Union contracts are made specifically to protect, and help unionized workers, and if an employee is fired due to terms that go against that contract that employee has the right to fight back. You will need to consult your Union representative under these circumstances.
  4. When your employer disagrees with your lawful political pursuits on your own time: If you are engaged in (lawful) political pursuits, recreational political activities, or some such that you take part in on your own time (not during work), and you believe that you have been fired for it you may have a case. Contact an employment lawyer immediately.
  5. When you have jury duty: This one is pretty cut and dry. If you have missed work because of jury duty, and you gave your employer reasonable notice for your absenteeism, they cannot legal fire you. You can in this case contact the Attorney General to assist you in defending your right to do your duty as a citizen of the United States of America.
  6. When you have filed for Worker’s Compensation: If you have been fired because you have filed a claim for worker’s compensation, you may have a case. Contact the NYS Worker’s Compensation Board immediately. Although an employer cannot fire you for filing a claim, it is important to remember that if you cannot sufficiently perform your job you can be legally replaced.
  7. When you are a protected Whistle-blower: There are whistle-blowers, and there are protected whistle-blowers so please make sure that you are protected, or your employer may have the right to legally fire you. NY labor laws state that In order to become a protected whistle-blower the co-worker or employer that you report must be doing substantial and specific harm to public health and/or public safety. If this is the case, your employer cannot legally fire you.

When is it legal to be fired?

Unfortunately, in the sate of New York, employment remains in an ’employment at will’ state. This means that as an employee you can be fired or hired at the discretion of the employer no matter how unreasonable the motive is. Employers can also do this at little to no legal risk, with the exception of the above situations. So when do the terms of being fired seem unreasonable, but are actually perfectly legal?

  1. When your employer wrongly accuses you of stealing: This may seem like the most unjust fact in the world, but according to NY State Labor Law, an employer can do just this with no legal repercussions. However, keep in mind that although it is legal to be fired, an employer cannot for you to pay for the stolen items, and if asked to do so contact an attorney immediately.
  2. When your personal work file contains damning sentiments against you: At this point in time, there is no existing statute that says an employer must disclose the contents of a personal file to that employee. It may be that your file contains untrue or derogatory comments about you, but for the time being there is not much legally that you can do to find this out.
  3. When you refuse to have your salary lowered or your hours changed: That’s right, the terms of your salary, job description, and hours are all subject to change unless specifically stated in you employee contract. As long as you are being paid at or above minimum wage, and are given a minimum of one day off per week, your employer is fully within their rights.


If you think you have been fired illegally, call Joseph Carbonaro today for a free consultation at (212) 880-1535, email him at joe@carbonarolaw.com or contact him here.