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Can an employer fire someone for no reason at all?

On Behalf of | May 23, 2022 | Employment Law

Employers can let employees go for a wide range of causes. Perhaps the person never lived up to your expectations. Maybe they turned out to be dishonest and untrustworthy or they slack off far too often. You thought they would fit in with the rest of your team but unfortunately, they just don’t and most likely never will. Their work might be shoddy and inaccurate most of the time. 

Are you, as an employer in New York, always legally obligated to give an employee a specific reason for their termination? Here’s what you need to know:

You don’t have to state your reasoning for a termination

The office of the attorney general of the state of New York explains that “….a private-sector employer is not required to have good cause to discharge an employee.” 

Employees under a collective bargaining agreement and government workers, however, may not be as vulnerable to being terminated without cause. What is stated in the employee’s contract does matter. It may say that they can only “be fired for cause.” Individual contracts may contain such a provision, as do many union contracts. 

Broadly speaking, employees do have options if they believe they were terminated for reasons that are illegal, even if no reason was given. For example, employees cannot be fired on “prohibited” grounds. These include the following:

  • Being absent due to jury duty
  • Union organization activities
  • Asking to be compensated for sick leave or taking sick leave (this just applies in New York City)
  • Discrimination
  • Involvement in political causes when the employee is not on the job
  • Whistleblowing
  • Filing a complaint regarding labor law violations
  • Submitting a workers’ compensation claim

If you’re concerned about the repercussions of letting someone go, it’s always wisest to get some experienced legal guidance before you act.