New York is an at-will employment state. That theoretically means that either your company or its employees can sever an employment relationship without warning. In fact, you don’t even need a reason, as long as you don’t terminate someone for an illegal reason.
However, while state law does make employment an at-will agreement, if you employ workers who belong to a union, that may impact what happens at the end of the employment relationship. Union workers are often crucial to construction companies that offer skilled services, but their collective bargaining rights can complicate your employment decisions.
If you make the decision to terminate a union worker, will the union try to fight your decision?
You likely have a contract with the union that affects your business operations
Agreeing to cooperate with unionized employees often requires companies to negotiate a contract with the union or integrate union rules into their employment contracts. Requiring good cause for an employee’s termination is a common union rule.
Instead of being able to just let a worker go for any reason, you will either need one extreme incident that supports your decision to terminate a worker or a documented pattern of bad behavior on the job. Documenting employee infractions is usually a good decision even if the worker does not belong to a union, as it can help you prove that your firing was not a form of discrimination or retaliation if the employee fights their firing.
Understanding your rights as an employer and the agreement you’ve reached with a union can make navigating the termination of a unionized employee easier for you.