Like many other states, Pennsylvania is an at-will state for employment. This means that employees who are working without a contract that states the reasons for which they can be terminated may be fired for any reason at any time. The exception to this rule is that the reason for the firing must not be an illegal one.
Employees may not be terminated simply because they are members of a class that is protected by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or other federal statutes such as the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. Courts have extended this prohibition to the termination of employees who have a strong association with a person who is a member of such a protective class.
It is also illegal to terminate an employee on the basis of his or her engaging in a protected activity. This may include filing a civil rights or sexual harassment complaint, serving on a jury, taking approved FMLA leave, whistle-blowing, advocating for better patient care or discussing wages with other employees. While Pennsylvania’s at-will status as a state means that employees do not have some of the protections employees do in states that do not follow at-will laws, there are still built-in protections through which a wrongfully terminated worker may be able to seek and recover damages.
People who believe that they may have been wrongfully terminated may want to talk to employment law attorneys to learn more about their employee rights. While the reason for which a person was fired may be unfair, it will not always be a valid basis for a wrongful termination lawsuit. An employment law attorney may analyze the situation and then honestly advise the employee about whether or not there are remedies available.