Q: Can you fire an employee without due cause?
A: Yes. New York State is an "employment-at-will," state. If there is no contract to restrict firing (like a collective bargaining agreement) an employer has the right to discharge an employee at any time for any reason. This also protects the employee's right to resign. An employer may fire an employee for "no reason." An employer may also fire an employee for a reason that might seem arbitrary and unfair. The employee is equally free to quit at any time without needing to explain or defend that decision.
There are a few exceptions to "employment-at-will." The most significant of these are laws, enforced by the New York State Division of Human Rights, which prohibit discrimination based on: .
For more information about how the New York State Division of Human Rights proceeds against unlawful forms of discrimination, go to: http://www.nysdhr.com/
Other exceptions to the doctrine of "employment-at-will" exist under § 201-d and § 215 of the New York State Labor Law: .
•Section 201-d prohibits an employer from firing an employee for:
•- political or recreational activities outside of work
•- legal use of consumable products outside of work
•- for membership in a union
• Section 215 states that no employer shall penalize any employee for making a complaint to the employer, to the Commissioner of Labor, or to the Commissioner's representative, about any provision of the Labor Law (Violation of § 215 can bring a civil fine and separate civil action by the employee.)