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Can My Employer Fire Me Without Giving Me Notice?

September 13th, 2023
Philadelphia Employment Lawyers at The Gold Law Firm P.C. Represent Wrongfully Terminated Workers

Pennsylvania is an at-will employment state, allowing employers to terminate employees without reason or providing advanced notice. The at-will doctrine also allows employers to change the terms of employment at any given time without notice, such as wageor benefit changes. In contrast, the at-will doctrine also offers employees the right to participate in strikes or quit their jobs without prior notice to their employer.

Despite being an at-will employment state, there are circumstances in which the conditions of an employee’s firing may constitute wrongful termination.

Employees’ rights are federally protected against discrimination under the Civil Rights Act (CRA), Equal Employment Opportunity Act (EEOA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Age Discrimination Employment Act (ADEA), and at the state level by the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA). Employers cannot terminate employees based on age, race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or religion.

Employees in at-will states are protected from firing in retaliation for exercising their federal anti-discrimination protected rights, such as:

  • Participating in an investigation of their employer for alleged wrongdoing.
  • Filing Workers’ Compensation claims.
  • Requesting reasonable accommodation due to a disability.
  • Requesting or taking maternity or paternity leave.
  • Filing a sexual harassment or discrimination complaint.
  • Discussions with fellow employees regarding forming a labor union or other work-related issues.
  • Reporting regulatory violations to state or federal agencies.
  • Filing a wage claim under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Pennsylvania courts have also identified additional instances in citing the at-will employment doctrine as grounds for termination does not apply. State regulations state that termination of at-will employees is unlawful when the employee:

  • Refuses to participate in illegal activities requested by the employer.
  • Reports illegal activity.
  • Refuses to submit to a lie detector test.
  • Is required to participate in public duties, such as jury duty.
  • Threatens to report or report workplace safety violations.
  • Refuses random drug testing or property searches violating their privacy rights.
  • Testifies against a supervisor, manager, or employer.
  • Denied employment or fired for prior crime convictions unrelated to job requirements.
  • Filing a wage claim under Pennsylvania’s wage and hour laws.

Additionally, employees who have entered a formal employment contract with an employer are not considered at-will employees. Employment contract laws also extend to collective bargaining units, as unions enter contracts with employers on behalf of their members. Employment contracts can include the length of employment, position responsibilities, task timelines and deadlines, and terms for which the employee can be terminated. Employers are prohibited, however, from firing contracted employees if the basis for termination violates the contract’s terms.

Employers cannot use formal contracts to circumvent an employee’s protected rights, such as forcing employees to sign contracts stating they cannot report violations or make discrimination claims as a term of employment.

Unlike some states, employment contract laws and protections apply only to written contracts in Pennsylvania. The Commonwealth does not recognize oral or implied contracts due to the lack of documentation or any record of the agreement.

Philadelphia Employment Lawyers at The Gold Law Firm P.C. Represent Wrongfully Terminated Workers

Despite being an at-will employment state, Pennsylvania employers cannot terminate employees based on discrimination or their federally and state protected status. If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated, our experienced Philadelphia employment Lawyers at The Gold Law Firm P.C. can help. Call us today at 215-569-1999 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia and Pennsauken, New Jersey, we serve clients in South Jersey and Southeastern Pennsylvania, including Wilkes-Barre, Scranton, Northeast Philadelphia, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, Lehigh County, and Montgomery County.

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