Employees who believe that they were fired from a job for unfair reasons may have a claim for wrongful termination. Even though many employment relationships today are considered at-will, meaning that either party can end the relationship at any time for any reason, there are some instances where an employer can be held liable for firing an employee. For example, employers in Pennsylvania cannot fire an employee for discriminatory reasons. Employees may also be able to recover damages if they have been fired for taking time off from work or for reporting an employer’s illegal behavior.
Federal and state laws protect an employee from being discriminated against. Even in an at-will employment relationship, if the employee was fired because of a discriminatory reason, the employee has a claim for wrongful termination and may recover damages. Employers cannot discriminate against an employee because of their race, ethnic background, religion, age, sex, pregnancy, citizenship status, national origin, color, ancestry, or disability.
Employers are prohibited from retaliating against an employee for complaining about workplace behavior or otherwise exercising a legal right. Employers are liable for firing an employee for making complaints regarding sexual harassment or discrimination. Employers may also be liable if they punish an employee for participating in investigations involving workplace behavior.
Employers may not fire an employee for exercising their legal rights, such as requesting accommodations for disabilities or religious practices. Employers are also not allowed to fire an employee for complaining about failure to pay wages or the ability to take leave. Employers are also prohibited from terminating employment for an employee’s usage of unemployment insurance during periods of unemployment.
Employers are not allowed to fire employee for whistleblowing. If an employee reports illegal workplace conduct and is fired for doing so, the employer may be held liable for wrongful termination. Laws protect employees from reporting wrongdoing or waste in their organizations.
Federal laws protect investors from corporate financial wrongdoing by explicitly protecting whistleblowers for reporting irregularities in financial reports or fraud. Even government employees and contractors are protected when reporting wrongdoing in government agencies.
Employers may also be liable for wrongful termination if found to have fired an employee based on a violation of a public policy. This exception is triggered if it is found that the employee was asked to commit a crime or disobey a law. Examples of wrongful termination based on violation of public policy include firing an employee for serving on a jury or for lying to authorities.
Time Off from Work
Employees are entitled to take time off for civic duties and family responsibilities. Employers may not fire employees for taking time off to fulfill their duties and responsibilities allowed by law. Employees can seek to take time off for the following reasons:
- Jury Duty. Employees are allowed unpaid leave for jury service.
- Family and Medical Leave. Employees are entitled to take unpaid leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition or to care of new child.
- Military Leave. Employees can take unpaid leave to serve in the military. Employers are required to reinstate the employee in the same position after their service is over.
In a wrongful termination lawsuit, employees may be able to recover past wages that were lost due to wrongful termination. Employees may also request reinstatement to their previous job. In some cases, employees may seek punitive damages for egregious behavior, as well as damages for emotional distress and pain and suffering.
Wrongful Termination Lawsuits
In Pennsylvania, there are exceptions to at-will employment relationships. If an employee has been fired or treated unfairly based on their race, religion, or for exercising their legal rights, they may have a claim against their employer. One should act quickly as it may be necessary to make an administration filing within a specific timeframe of the alleged wrongful behavior to preserve the claim.
Pittsburgh Employment Lawyers at AlpernSchubert P.C. Advocate for Workers’ Rights
If you experienced harassment at work or wrongful termination, contact the Pittsburgh employment lawyers at AlpernSchubert P.C. today. We will help you take legal action for unfair treatment and termination by your employer. Call us at 412-765-1888 or contact us online if you have experienced wrongful termination to preserve your rights and recover damages. Located in Pittsburgh, we serve clients throughout Allegheny County, Washington County, Lawrence County, and western Pennsylvania.