What are an employees rights regarding termination and harassment in the workplace?

I believe my boss is preparing to fire me soon. He withheld my bonus because I made a mistake (I filed a case that was $5 short and it was rejected by USCIS but we refiled and it was fine). I believe he withheld my bonus because of that mistake and because it happened close to the end of the year when we get our reviews. Prior to that, he had no complaints about my job performance. I have emails from him where he compliments my work. He has also been avoiding me, he usually emails/calls me regarding cases but he has not been doing that. According to co-workers, this is how he acts prior to firing someone. I wanted to know, since there is no formal process of firing, if I were to be fired and tried to file for unemployment what is to prevent him from claiming that I quit instead of being fired? He is the president, we have no HR department, and there is no “higher-up” than him. Also, I have been here for 3 years and he has treated his employees poorly. He keeps employees under wraps out of fear of losing their jobs, calls employees if they are out/sick and threatens to fire them if they don’t come in, berates employees, talks down his employees in front of co-workers, if someone makes a mistake our boss makes a point of “making an example” of them in front of everyone, he yells in the office, throws office equipment, punches cabinets (I have photos where he’s put a dent into one of them). The first year when I started he yelled at me in front of coworkers and clients and when I threatened to quit, I also sent him and email and I have emails from him apologizing for his behavior and asking if we can speak to smooth over the matter. I am not sure if this situation can be classified as anything.

Asked on December 31, 2010 under Employment Labor Law, New York

Answers:

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

You can file for unemployment when you have been let go frm your job through "no fault of your own."  That is the standard that is used.  Stealing from the company, continuously being reprimanded and not changing would be fault.  They would also have to be documented in some way such as an employee review (which generally has to be signed by the employee to be valid).  It does not appear from what you have written that there would be fault issues to deny you unemployment.  But that does not mean that he will not contest it.  You would just have to take all that evidence in with you to a hearing as well as witnesses.  As for the harassment, if it was a reason that gave support to your quitting then you might need help from an attorney when you file your claim.  Otherwise, you can seek consultation on its effect generally on your work environment and if it is actionable under the law.  Good luck.   


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