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Do I have to give a reason for firing an employee?

Ithaca, NY |

I am a restaurant owner, and as bad as it sounds, I have had several customers privately tell me that they do not like one of my waiters because they make them feel uncomfortable. It is mostly an older crowd who has the problem with him. He is African American, and he is a great waiter, but I don't know if it is good for business to keep him on. Would I be within my rights firing him because NY is an at will state? If I need a reason I can just say he was bad for business correct?

he makes them*

Attorney Answers 6

Posted

Let me answer your question this way, I am an experienced employment discrimination attorney who only represents employees. If you took the action that you propose and the particular employee that you terminated came to me to file a discrimination lawsuit, I would take the case in a New York minute.

No attorney client relationship has been created by this answer.

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Posted

I haven't yet fired him. What would be the best way to fire him with no legal repercussions?

Posted

You don't have to give a reason but it sounds like you are firing him due to race and that is illegal. He could sue you.

I am a former federal and State prosecutor and have been doing criminal defense work for over 16 years. I was named to the Super Lawyers list as one of the top attorneys in New York for 2012 and 2013. No more than 5 percent of the lawyers in the state are selected by Super Lawyers. Martindale-Hubbell has given me its highest rating - AV Preeminent - in the areas of Criminal Law, Personal Injury, and Litigation. According to Martindale-Hubbell”AV Preeminent is a significant rating accomplishment - a testament to the fact that a lawyer's peers rank him or her at the highest level of professional excellence." Fewer than 8% of attorneys achieve an AV Preeminent rating. I also have the highest ranking – “superb” – on Avvo. The above answer, and any follow up comments or emails is for informational purposes only and not meant as legal advice.

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Posted

If he us a good waiter, then yiu do not have a valid reason to fire a waiter. If the customers give you a reason to fire him, them go over the reason with s local employment lawyer before you do anything. If they state it is his race, then do not fire him!

If this answer is helpful, then please mark the helpful button. If this is the best answer, then please indicate it. Thanks. For further information you should see an attorney and discuss the matter completely. If you are in the New York City area, then you can reach me during normal business hours at 718 329 9500 or www.mynewyorkcitylawyer.com.

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Posted

I agree that a business owner can be held liable for permitting customers to discriminate against employees.

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Posted

You do NOT need to give a reason when terminating an employee.

But that is a very different issue than whether in this specific case you have a legal right to terminate this employee. Given that the law allows employers almost unlimited rights to terminate employees who are not represented by a union, the fact that multiple attorneys here have expressed doubts about your rights in this circumstance should give you pause.

Still, your post does not explicitly state that the reasons for the customers objections to this employee are based on his race.

Given these competing considerations, it would be most unwise of you to proceed to terminate this employee without a specific consultation with a local employment attorney. A skilled and experienced employment attorney can elicit all of the relevant and operative facts and provide a comprehensive legal analysis in context that will enable a sound and defensible result. This consultation may cost you a few hundred dollars. That is vastly less money than even beginning the first stages of defending against an unlawful termination claim. Moreover, that consultation will leave you well informed and capable of sound decision-making the next time you have to consider terminating an employee -- a good bargain.

No legal advice here. READ THIS BEFORE you contact me! My responses to questions on Avvo are never intended as legal advice and must not be relied upon as if they were legal advice. I give legal advice ONLY in the course of a formal attorney-client relationship. Exchange of information through Avvo's Questions forum does not establish an attorney-client relationship with me. That relationship is established only by joint execution of a written agreement for legal services. My law firm does not provide free consultations. Please do not call or write to me with a “few questions” that require me to analyze the specific facts of your history and your license application and prescribe for you how to get a State license. Send me an email to schedule a paid Consultation for that kind of information, direction, and assistance. My law firm presently accepts cases involving State and federal licenses and permits; discipline against State and federal licenses; and disciplinary and academic challenges to universities, colleges, boarding schools, and private schools. We take cases of wrongful termination or employment discrimination only if the claims involve peace officers, universities or colleges.

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Posted

All of my colleagues give you good advice. I think that Mr. Kim's advice was particularly insightful (that if you fire the waiter, Mr. Kim would be happy to represent him in a discrimination suit).

Look, let me call it as I see it: You tell us only three things about this employee -- (1) He is black; (2) He is "a great waiter"; and (3) Some of the older patrons of your restaurant are, for unknown reasons, vaguely "uncomfortable" with him. I doubt that the reason for their discomfort is because they are intimidated by the fact that he is such a great waiter. That leaves the fact that he is black.

I don't think you can safely fire him. But if you do, please be kind enough to give him my name and telephone number.

One other thing. Let me tell you something about racism. A fair-minded person who fires an exemplary employee due to other customers' racism is, by definition, a racist.

Good luck to you. And to your great waiter.

Michael S. Haber is a New York attorney. As such, his responses to posted inquiries, such as the one above, are limited to his understanding of law in the jurisdiction in which he practices and not to any other jurisdiction. In addition, no response to any posted inquiry should be deemed to constitute legal advice, nor to constitute the existence of an attorney/client or other contractual or fiduciary relationship, inasmuch as rendering legal advice involves the ability of the attorney to ask appropriate questions of the person seeking such advice and to thus gather appropriate information. In addition, an attorney/client relationship is formed only by specific agreement. The purpose of this answer is to provide the questioner with general information, not to outline specific legal rights and remedies.

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