Terminated At-Will Employee’s Defamation, Tortious Interference Claims Properly Dismissed

New York is an “at will employment” state. In Winiarski v. Butler, 2021 NY Slip Op 07534 (N.Y. App. Div. 1st Dept. Dec. 28, 2021), the court unanimously affirmed the dismissal of plaintiff’s tort claims allegedly arising from plaintiff’s termination.

It explained:

New York does not recognize the tort of wrongful discharge for at-will employees, and discharged employees cannot subvert the traditional at-will contract rule by casting their cause of action in terms of another tort.

Plaintiff’s defamation claims were properly dismissed, since they are based upon the statements defendants made concerning the reasons for plaintiff’s discharge. His claim for tortious interference with business relations, arising from the same statements, was likewise an outgrowth of the wrongful discharge claim. That the statements were allegedly made externally to defendants’ retail construction client, one month before plaintiff was fired, does not undercut the conclusion that they are too closely related to plaintiff’s termination to stand as a distinct cause of action.

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