In Pennsylvania, most employment is considered to be at-will. This means that employers are generally able to fire employees at any time and for nearly any reason. Employees are likewise able to resign from their jobs for any reason and at any time.
While at-will employment is the general rule, there are some exceptions to it. Employers are forbidden from firing employees for reasons that are discriminatory or retaliatory in nature. Workers are protected from these types of prohibited actions by their employers under both state and federal anti-discrimination laws. Employees who have employment contracts are also not able to be fired if their terminations violate the terms of their contracts. The attorneys at Swartz Swidler are able to assist people who have been fired from their jobs for prohibited reasons.
How employment contracts can modify the application of the at-will doctrine
Some employers and employees enter into employment contracts. These documents may provide the conditions of employment, and the conditions that are contained within the contracts can supersede any application of the at-will doctrine. For example, some employment contracts specify that employees can only be terminated for cause.
Union workers who work under a collective bargaining agreement may also have conditions that supersede the at-will doctrine. Civil servants may also have employment contracts that have protocols and standards that must be met before they can be fired.
Anti-discrimination laws and the at-will doctrine
Employers in Pennsylvania are unable to terminate employees for discriminatory reasons. Employees are protected under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 from discrimination based on their protected statuses, including the following:
- National origin
Some employers may try to claim that they used the at-will doctrine when they were really motivated by discrimination or retaliation. Swartz Swidler might be able to help you if you believe that your employer’s real reason for firing you was based on a discriminatory motivation. Employers are also forbidden from engaging in retaliation against employees for exercising their rights under the anti-discrimination laws or for assisting with investigations of allegations that their employers violated anti-discrimination laws.
While Pennsylvania is an at-will state, that does not give your employer license to fire you for a discriminatory reason or in retaliation for exercising your rights. Your employer also cannot mandate that you waive your rights against discrimination or retaliation to get a job or to keep your employment. For instance, if your employer asks you to sign a document stating that you will not discuss forming a union or will not ask for maternity leave, the document will be considered to be invalid.
If you believe that you were terminated from your job for a discriminatory or retaliatory reason, you may have legal rights. Contact the employment lawyers at Swartz Swidler to discuss what happened to you.