ANSWER: Either the employer or employee can terminate the relationship in "at will" employment, which is common in New York. However, an employer cannot fire you for an unlawful reason. For example, if the termination is the result of discrimination or retaliation for opposing unlawful bias, the law protects you. Consult with a lawyer at a civil rights law firm about possible legal remedies.
Q2. I am being harassed at work. What can I do?
ANSWER: An employer cannot "harass" you for impermissible reasons. For example, if you are experiencing unwanted advances by a member of the oppose sex, or the boss seeks improper favors, or if working conditions are becoming intolerable due to a sexually hostile work environment, you may be the victim of unlawful sexual harassment. Similarly, if you are being harassed due to your race, national origin, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or sexual preference, the law may protect you. Or if you are harassed after "whistle-blowing"--the reporting of employer illegality--you may be protected by the law.
Q3. How can I afford an attorney if I have been fired or laid off from my job?
ANSWER: Some lawyers will provide a free initial consultation, often over the telephone. A reputable attorney will then provide guidance as to whether the facts warrant a closer look. If you believe you have suffered a legal wrong resulting in damage or injury to you, you can discuss a mutually acceptable retainer agreement with the attorney. Some attorneys who handle employment law or civil rights cases will take cases on a contingency or partial contingency fee basis, where the bulk of the attorneys' fees are paid to the attorney only if the case is successful.
Q4. Can I get my attorney's fees paid from the employer?
ANSWER: This is possible. Both federal employment law statutes and the New York City Human Rights Law provide for the possible recovery of attorneys' fee to be paid to a prevailing employee.
Q5. If I don't wish to fight a case in court, is it still worth retaining a lawyer?
ANSWER: It is foolish to be one's own lawyer. Even if you don't wish to sue, a lawyer may be able to negotiate a beneficial "severance agreement" with the employer, or obtain better terms to a severance agreement which an employer has already proposed. The best advice is to consult with an experienced employment lawyer.
Q6. If I am having problems at work, when should I speak with an attorney?
ANSWER: The sooner, the better. If you wait until you are fired, or resign out of frustration or as a result of intolerable work conditions, it may be too late. A good lawyer can provide you with sound advice to protect your legal interests, and perhaps save your career.
Q7. Can an attorney help me negotiate a severance package?
ANSWER: Yes, frequently a better severance package can be negotiated.