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What does wrongful termination look like? 

On Behalf of | May 17, 2024 | Employment Discrimination

Unless specified otherwise in an employment contract, workers in Pennsylvania are employed at will. What this means is that they can be terminated at any time without notice. At the same time, it also means that employees can walk away from a job if they want to without providing notice. 

With that being said, employers still have to abide by the law and certain terminations may be unlawful. What does wrongful termination look like? 

A discriminatory firing

Workers are protected by the law in Pennsylvania based on protected characteristics such as race, religion, gender and sexual orientation. It is unlawful for an employer to treat workers unfairly on these grounds, and this includes firing a worker based on a protected characteristic. 

Contract breaches 

As mentioned, Pennsylvania is an at-will employment state. However, there are occasions when an employment contract may guarantee a worker certain rights. For example, the contract may state that employees must receive a written warning before termination. If this is not honored, then the termination may be unlawful. 

Fired for asserting legal rights 

Wrongful termination often arises out of workplace retaliation. Relation occurs when a worker is punished for attempting to assert their legal rights. For example, if an employee is paid below the minimum wage and complains about this, they cannot be fired.

Further examples of guaranteed legal rights include: 

  • The right to legally mandated rest breaks
  • The right to a safe working environment 
  • The right to report criminal activity
  • The right to request reasonable accommodations 
  • The right to request maternity leave 

If an employee is fired for asserting any of these rights and are terminated as a result, then this is both retaliatory and unlawful. Seeking legal guidance is one of the first steps toward asserting your legal rights as an employee in Pennsylvania.