Many employees in Manhattan, and even some employers, may assume that most employment arrangements are governed by employment contracts in addition to employment law. The reality is that most employment relationships can be categorized as employment “at will,” meaning that the employee can be terminated for any reason not expressly prohibited by employment law or civil rights law. However, some employment relationships are governed by an employment contract, and it is common for these contracts to limit the power of the employer to fire the employee.
A common provision of an employment contract is that the employee can only be terminated for “good cause.” Courts have interpreted “good cause” to refer to purely business needs. For example, if an employee has poor work performance, low productivity or is frequently late or absent, the employer may have good cause to fire the employee. Threats of violence, disruptiveness, endangering co-workers and the commission of illegal acts are other possible examples of good cause to discharge an employee.
An employment contract does not necessarily have to be in writing. Certain statements made during interviews, performance reviews or other times may create employment contracts. For example, if an interviewer tells a soon-to-be employee that the employee will not be let go as long as the employee is doing the job well, this could be interpreted as establishing an employment contract.
Employment litigation can sometimes be a thorny thing for employers and employees alike. Employers and employees may want to learn more about employer representation and employee representation.