What Are Illegal Reasons For Firing Employees?

What Are Illegal Reasons For Firing Employees

In Pennsylvania and New Jersey, a majority of employees are at-will workers. Employers are able to fire at-will employees at any time and for any reason as long as the reason is not illegal. There are state and federal laws that forbid employers from using certain reasons for firing employees whether the employees are at will or working under employment contracts. If you were fired for a discriminatory reason, the experienced employment lawyers at Swartz Swidler may be able to help you.

Federal laws

There are several federal anti-discrimination laws that forbid most employers from firing employees because of their genetic information, religion, disability, age if over 40, national origin, gender and race. Employers are also prohibited from firing workers who are pregnant or who have pregnancy or childbirth-related medical conditions. New Jersey and Pennsylvania each have their own anti-discrimination laws to protect workers from being fired for discriminatory purposes.


Employers are not allowed to terminate employees or to take any other adverse actions against them for engaging in certain protected activities, including filing discrimination claims. Employees are able to file retaliation claims even if their underlying complaints are unsuccessful.

Refusing to take a polygraph

Under the Employee Polygraph Protection Act, most employers are forbidden from firing employees because they refuse to submit to a polygraph test.

Alien status

The Immigration Reform and Control Act prohibits most employers from firing employees because of their alien statuses. This protection applies to workers who are legally eligible to work in the U.S.

Complaining about OSHA violations

It is illegal for employers to terminate employees because they have complained that their working conditions do not comply with state or federal safety regulations.

Violating public policy

In a majority of states, employers are not allowed to fire employees when doing so would violate public policy. These reasons might include:

  • Firing employees because they refuse to commit a crime
  • Firing employees for complaining about their employers’ illegal conduct
  • Firing employees because they exercised their legal rights

Contact an attorney

If you believe that you were terminated for an illegal reason, it is important for you to talk to an experienced employment law attorney to learn about the rights that you might have. Call Swartz Swidler today to schedule a consultation.