Discipline and termination

State procedures

Are there state-specific laws on the procedures employers must follow with regard to discipline and grievance procedures?

New York has no laws regarding discipline and grievance procedures (other than those which may arise indirectly in connection with generally applicable laws, such as those regarding discrimination). 

At-will or notice

At-will status and/or notice period?

New York is an employment at-will state, meaning that both an employer and an employee may end an employee’s employment at any time, for any reason, with or without cause or notice, subject to any agreed upon contractual limitations and in compliance with applicable laws (e.g., anti-discrimination laws). This applies whether an employee voluntarily leaves his or her job or the employer terminates the employee’s employment. 

However, on January 5, 2021, New York City amended its Fair Work Week Law, to require New York City fast-food employers to have “just cause” or a “bona fide economic reason” to discharge an employee who has completed his or her probationary period, which cannot surpass 30 days (N.Y.C. Admin. Code §20-1272(a)). The law, which went into effect on July 4, 2021, prevents New York City fast-food employers from discharging employees pursuant to the employment-at-will doctrine. With respect to terminating for “just cause” the law provides, among other things, that employers maintain a written progressive discipline policy and use such progressive discipline before terminating employees for “just cause.” (Id. at §20-1272(c)). With respect to “bona fide economic reason” the law provides, among other things, that layoffs must be pursuant to seniority, such that employees with the greatest seniority will be retained the longest, reinstated, or restored hours first (Id. at §20-1272(h)).

What restrictions apply to the above?

An employer may not terminate an employee based on the employee’s membership in a protected class. Likewise, the New York Labor Law prohibits employers from terminating an employee for his or her off-duty political or legal recreational activities outside of work, legal use of consumable products outside of work, or membership in a union (N.Y. Labor Law § 201-d). Employers may also not terminate or discriminate against an employee for making a complaint to the employer or the state’s Commissioner of Labor regarding purported violations of the New York Labor Law, including a violation which “creates and presents a substantial and specific danger to the public health or safety, or which constitutes health care fraud” (N.Y. Labor Law §§ 215 and 740).

Final paychecks

Are there state-specific rules on when final paychecks are due after termination?

Regardless of whether an employee voluntarily leaves his or her job or is terminated, the employer must pay the employee’s wages no later than the regular pay day for the pay period during which termination occurred (N.Y. Labor Law § 191). Wages may be paid by mail, if requested by the employee.