Do I Have A Claim Against My Employer In New York For Firing Me In Violation Of The Company’s Employee Handbook?
In New York, employment is at-will. That means that employment law in New York is not always just, and it is not always reasonable. In New York, unless you have an employment agreement that states to the contrary, or unless you belong to a labor union, you can be terminated – that is, fired — for any reason or no reason, fair reason or fair reason, as long as it is not a reason that is barred by statute or by public policy.
That said, in New York, you, the employee, may be able to state a claim against your former employer for discharge without cause based upon an implied-in-fact contract arising from promises contained in an employee handbook, provided that you detrimentally relied on the promises.
In the leading case of Weiner v McGraw-Hill, Inc., the employer’s manual stated that “the company will resort to dismissal for just and sufficient cause only, and only after all practical steps towards rehabilitation or salvage of the employee have been taken and failed.”
The New York Court of Appeals then set forth rigorous reliance standards that employees must satisfy in order to succeed in a handbook-based breach of contract action:
- The plaintiff individual was induced to leave his or her other employment with assurances that the new employer would not discharge him without cause;
- This assurance was incorporated into the employment application;
- The plaintiff rejected other offers of employment in reliance on the assurance; and
- The plaintiff was instructed by supervisors to proceed in strict compliance with the handbook and policy manuals stating that employees could only be discharged for cause.
To minimize the risk that an employee handbook will be construed as altering New York’s employment at-will doctrine, your employer may include a disclaimer in its employee handbook notifying its employees that your employer is in no way limiting its generally unconstrained right to fire its employees.
New York courts have also adopted a very narrow implied-in-law contractual exception to the employment-at-will doctrine.
In the leading case of Wieder v. Skala, the New York Court of Appeals held that, where the employer, a law firm, allegedly fired the plaintiff associate because of the plaintiff associate’s insistence that the firm comply with the governing disciplinary rules by reporting professional misconduct committed by another associate, the plaintiff associate could maintain a lawsuit against his law firm employer for breach of an implied contract.
The Wieder Court reasoned that it was implicit in the plaintiff associate’s employment relationship with his law firm that both associates and partners would engage in their “common professional enterprise” in compliance with the New York Code of Professional Responsibility.
If you are an executive or a professional in the New York City metro area and you believe that you have been wrongfully terminated, that you’ve been denied salary, bonuses, commissions, or other wages that are owed to you, or that your employer has failed or refused to reasonably accommodate your disability, call New York City Wrongful Termination Attorney David S. Rich at (212) 209-3972 today.