Most employees in New Hampshire are “at-will” employees. That means that you do not have an employment contract with a specified term that contains standards for termination or layoff (not just an offer letter that states your hire date and compensation), a collective bargaining agreement that sets forth standards for termination or layoff, or a statute that specifies legal requirements for your termination or layoff.
Generally, at-will employees may be terminated with or without cause or notice. However, there are some legal protections.
For example, it is unlawful to terminate an at-will employee for either doing something that public policy would support or refusing to do something that public policy would condemn. This is called wrongful termination. By way of example, if an employer asked you to prepare false financial reports about the company to use for the employer to get financing, and you refused to do that, and the employer terminated you for that refusal, you might have a wrongful termination claim.
As another example, if you worked as an employee in a medical facility or hospital, and made a complaint to the employer about an issue that you thought posed a risk to the safety of patients at the employer, and you were terminated as a result of that complaint, you might have a wrongful termination claim.
The Whistleblower Protection Act
If you are terminated for reporting or refusing to do something that you reasonably believe is illegal, you may also have a claim under New Hampshire’s Whistleblower Protection Act, RSA 275-E. In New Hampshire, you have three years to bring a claim for wrongful termination or violation of the whistleblower protection act.
In addition, at-will employees cannot be terminated by an employer with at least six employees because of their age, sex (including pregnancy), race, color, national origin, religious creed, sexual orientation, marital status, veteran status, or mental or physical disability. You also cannot be terminated in retaliation for raising concerns about discrimination based upon those categories or requesting reasonable accommodation of a disability. Depending on the number of employees the employer has, those claims may fall under RSA 354-A and federal laws. You may only have 180 days to bring this type of claim.
Finally, depending on the number of employees that that the employer has, at-will employees cannot be terminated for taking time off for pregnancy, childbirth, related medical conditions, for Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave, for military leave, or in retaliation for raising concerns about discrimination based upon the use of this type of time out. You may only have 180 days to bring this type of claim under RSA 354-A (for pregnancy, childbirth, and related condition leaves) and two to three years under the FMLA.
If you think you might have one of these claims, you should speak with a knowledgeable employment attorney.