GUEST ROOM | It’s Time for Just Cause Employment Protection

Sarah was a teacher at a local Montessori school for 11 months. One cold November day, she was outside with a student during the before-school program. The child said they were cold and asked to go inside, so Sarah — like most people would have done — immediately agreed. The next day, she was fired for “not being a good fit for the school.” Apparently, the other teachers and director believed that kid had been manipulating her and that she should have pushed them to stay outside for longer. She was given no warning, no severance pay, no time to find another job and no opportunity to say goodbye to her students. After being terminated from the school, Sarah struggled for many months to find another job. She was already living paycheck to paycheck, so this experience was extremely unsettling and stressful. “It is heartbreaking to be fired unjustly and to not have a chance to fix it” Sarah said, “It completely changes your entire world and the way that you view yourself, and there’s a lot of shame and anger and hurt and… just trying to process it all…and it not only affects you; it affects your coworkers; it affects the children, and it just has that…  butterfly effect.” 

This is just one of many stories of unjust termination in the City of Ithaca. This is why the Working Families Party, Workers Center and countless small businesses, unions, and local organizations are advocating for a new piece of legislation: Just Cause Employment Protection. 

JCEP would address many of the struggles that workers in Ithaca face. Under just cause protections, employers need a good reason to fire or lay off an employee, and must follow a fair and transparent process in doing so. Just Cause means employers, not just workers, are held accountable, and establishes a local commission to review possible violations. It gives workers the security they deserve in the workplace and encourages employers to focus on developing, rather than replacing, workers.