At-Will employment is a contract between an employer and an employee which states that either party can terminate the employment relationship with or without cause at any time. The New York State at-will system provides protection for employers and employees in matching rights to liabilities. In order to maximize protection for yourself or your business when entering into a situation of at-will employment, it is important to be aware of the key aspects of the system and to ensure that all parties are aware of their rights. Here we present the top five things to consider when dealing with an at-will employment relationship in New York.

First and foremost, it is important to recognize that New York State is an at-will state, meaning that any employer can terminate an employee without providing a reason. However, there are a few protections that do exist which apply to employers and employees in New York. These include certain statutory protections which cannot be circumvented with the provisions of any contract. Specific exceptions to the at-will rule include protections against discrimination, retaliation, and sexual harassment.

The second aspect to consider is that at-will employment is not absolute. That is, although employers are generally allowed to terminate employees without cause, this right is not without limitation. For example, if an employee can demonstrate that they were fired in violation of some public policy, they may be entitled to a wrongful discharge claim. It is important to keep in mind that the employee can also be held liable for any damages that may be caused by their Employer in this situation.

The third point to consider when dealing with an at-will employment agreement is that the employee enjoys certain protections when it comes to wages and hours. Specifically, the employee cannot be asked to sign a contract that excuses the employer from their obligation to pay overtime or minimum wage. The New York State Labor Law also provides certain protections to employees who are mistakenly or fraudulently discharged from their jobs.

Fourth, it is important to recognize that New York courts have established certain rights and protections for employees that employers must be educated about and comply with. Specifically, the Wage Theft Prevention Act outlines rigorous notice requirements for employees when it is time to terminate their employment, and employers must be sure to follow proper procedures to be in compliance with the law. Finally, the New York Service Employees International Union Employee (SEIU) Code of Conduct provides further regulations that employers in New York must adhere to when dealing with at-will agreements.

Last, but certainly not least, it is important to keep in mind that understanding the laws related to at-will employment can often be a complicated process, especially for those unfamiliar with the nuances of state and federal laws. Consequently, it can be beneficial to consult with an experienced attorney or an experienced legal team from UpCounsel that are knowledgeable about New York’s at-will system. This way, employers and employees alike can be sure to understand exactly what rights and liabilities they have when entering into an at-will agreement in New York.

At-will employment is a complex system with a range of nuances and obligations for employers and employees to follow. By understanding the top five things to consider when entering an at-will employment situation in New York, both parties can be sure to maximize their protection under the law. With the help of a knowledgeable attorney or UpCounsel legal team, employers and employees alike can ensure that they are compliant with all applicable laws and in a better position to protect their rights.


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