Monday, December 17, 2007

Employment-At-Will ...The New York Experience

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times ... New York is an employment-at-will State. Accordingly, one can be fired for any reason or no reason, provided that the basis for the discharge does not violate the law. Such was the reaffirmation in Ferraro v. Seamen's Church Institute of New York and New Jersey, (Supreme Court, N.Y. Co. - Decided: December 3, 2007).

In Ferraro, the Plaintiff (a maintenance worker), sued his former employer for constructive discharge, defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The Plaintiff alleged that his supervisor: (a) began verbally humiliating him in front of co-workers by calling him names such as "stupid," "blind" and "senile," and criticizing his job performance; (b) wrongly accused him of having stolen property from his employer; (c) assigned him tasks more difficult than those assigned to his co-workers and made him work longer hours; and (d) falsely reported to the employer that he possessed marijuana at work. Plaintiff resigned from his position after the accusation of drug possession was made because he claimed that the job had become intolerable.

The court granted Defendant's Motion to dismiss on all causes of action, and denied Plaintiff’s Cross-Motion to amend the Complaint. In granting dismissal, the court relied upon the well-settled principle in New York that an employment relationship is presumed to be terminable at any time by either party absent an agreement establishing a fixed duration. No such agreement existed between the Plaintiff and his employer. The court held that even the alleged constructive discharge (i.e., that Plaintiff was forced to voluntarily leave his employment due to the employer’s intentional creation of a work environment that was so difficult or intolerable that a reasonable person would feel forced to resign) was appropriate. It is noteworthy that the neither the Complaint nor the proposed Amended Complaint alleged that the constructive discharge was based on employment discrimination due to Plaintiff’s race, religion, gender, nationality, age or sexual preference. Had such allegations been in issue, perhaps the court would have denied the employer’s Motion to dismiss and allowed the matter to proceed.

While the holding in Ferraro is not Earth-shattering, it does confirm that a strict interpretation of the employment-at-will doctrine is alive and well, and living in New York.

1 comment:

New York Universities said...

I agree with Randy's views.
Very informative. Thank you for posting!