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Could this pro-worker law gain national traction?

U.S. business laws and customary practices generally track those that feature in other developed countries in many respects.

But not all. One notable exception is the long-entrenched at-will labor law standard. In a nutshell, at-will employment means this: Company principals can fire a worker without just cause under virtually any circumstance.

That point was soundly driven home a couple of years back in New York when a fast-food worker was reportedly terminated on the spot for not smiling at customers.

While seeming to provide employers with absolute power to fire workers, the at-will standard is in fact not without limits. It comes with a key caveat stressing that even a without-cause termination cannot proceed if motivated by an unlawful discriminatory purpose.

For example, a worker cannot be fired for being of a certain race, pregnant, advanced in years, disabled or having other attributes protected under a host of strong federal and state laws.

Employers must thus walk a straight line when employing their at-will prerogative, given that it might be challenged on grounds ranging from discriminatory intent to retaliation and wrongful termination.

At-will concerns have commanded a strong spotlight in New York City since an enactment earlier this year that is scheduled to take legal effect on July 4. The legislation will disallow at-will terminations in the metro’s vast fast-food industry. It is the first of its kind to be passed in the United States.

Virtually any New York employer might reasonably have questions or concerns about at-will standards and linked details. An experienced New York employment law legal team can provide guidance and, when necessary, strong representation in a labor dispute.