Is it impossible to discriminate against an at-will employee?

New York’s at-will employment laws stipulate that workers and employers only have to have a professional relationship as long as they want to maintain that relationship. Either one can choose to terminate it at any time. If the employer wants to fire the worker, they don’t need a reason to do so. If the worker wants to quit their job, they also don’t need to have a reason – and they don’t need to give advance notice.

But this makes some employers believe that it’s impossible to discriminate against an at-will employee. For instance, the employer may believe that they can always fire that person and that it is never a wrongful termination because they don’t need a reason for the firing. But this is not quite true.

Illegal reasons

The thing to remember is that at-will employment laws state that employers do not need to have a reason to fire an employee. However, it is still prohibited for the employer to fire that employee for illegal reasons.

For instance, say that an employer wants to let someone go because they just joined a new religion and that employer always tries to hire workers who share the same religion. If the employer fires the worker for that reason, it is still illegal religious discrimination, even if the worker was an at-will employee.

There are many different protected classes that employers need to be aware of. Religion is just one, but these also include things like race, national origin, age, gender, pregnancy status, disability and much more.

Were you wrongfully terminated?

Even if your former employer is sure that a wrongful termination is impossible, it may still have happened to you. If you believe it has, take the time to look into your legal options.

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