Employment “At Will”
New York State is an “Employment-at-Will” state. That means that an Employer may terminate an Employee at any time and for any legal reason or no reason at all. Likewise, an Employee may terminate his or her employment at any time. However, if an Employee has an employment contract (whether actual or inferred) or is protected by a collective bargaining agreement, termination will be subject to the terms of such agreements. For this reason, Employers often make clear in their offer letters, Employee Handbooks or other writings when Employees are “at will” and not subject to contracts
Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)
The ADEA protects Employees and job applicants over the age of 40 against discrimination or adverse employment actions based on age.
Family Medical and Leave Act (FMLA)
The FMLA obligates an Employer with 50 or more Employees to provide “eligible individuals” (those employed at least 12 months and who worked at least 1,250 hours in the previous 12 months) with unpaid leave to care for the Employee’s or a close relative’s serious health condition or to care for a child born to or placed with the Employee within the preceding 12 months. Employees are permitted to take up to 12 workweeks of unpaid leave in a designated 12 month period
Occupational Safety & Health Act (OSHA)
OSHA is intended to ensure a safe and healthy workplace by imposing obligations on Employers and giving rights to Employees. Aside from specific requirements, there is a general duty for an Employer to provide a safe work place. In addition, the law forbids Employers from retaliating against Employees who file complaints, assist in OSHA investigations, report work-related injuries, or follow orders or treatment plans of treating physician (including being absent from work while recovering). Under the law, Employers must keep logs and summaries of workplace injuries and illnesses and must notify OSHA upon learning of a workplace accident that results in the death of at least one Employee or hospitalization of three or more Employees.
Where there is a workplace injury, the Employee may receive benefits through Workers’ Compensation, including weekly payments and an award if any debilitating injury is permanent. In exchange, Employees may not bring a suit against the Employer for their injuries. Employers may not retaliate against Employees for bringing a Workers’ Compensation claim. New York State Disability: Individuals who are unable to work because of a non-work related disability may be eligible to receive weekly payments through the New York State disability program. This program provides insurance to partially replace lost wages for short term disabilities. Unemployment Insurance: When Employees lose their jobs for certain reasons, they may be eligible to receive partial wage replacement in the form of unemployment benefits. Certain actions by Employees may disqualify them from receiving unemployment benefits, including voluntarily resigning from employment or committing disqualifying misconduct. Vested retirement programs: Some Employers provide Employees with retirement benefits or enable Employees to set aside part of their wages before taxes in a 401k account (called a defined contribution account). When the Employee has met all requirements to receive these benefits upon retirement, the benefits have “vested.”
This information covers only part of the many rights and obligations of Employers and Employees under federal, state and local laws. Employers and Employees should direct any questions to a labor and employment attorney or other qualified professional.