Wrongful termination is the act of firing or discharging a person from employment for unlawful or unfair reasons. A wrongful termination does not apply in every case of employment termination. In Pennsylvania and most states, an employer employs an employee “at-will.” What this means is that employment is optional. An employer is generally under no obligation to keep an at-will employee. A wrongful termination does not apply in most cases.
Wrongful termination applies in situations where an employer fires a contracted employee without cause. Imagine a situation where your employer promised employment for a period of three years. Suddenly, your superiors decide to go with someone else. The reason they give is a thin veil.
You know better than to believe them, and so do we. At Freundlich & Littman, LLC, we are wrongful termination lawyers. We service the greater Philadelphia area. We have the experience and determination to get our clients full compensation for their wrongful termination.
At-Will vs. Contract Employees
Before diving into wrongful termination law, it is important to understand the differences between “at-will” and “just cause” employees (often referred to as contract employees).
How do you know if you are an at-will employee? Unless your employment contract or handbook specifies otherwise, you are likely an at-will employee. The default in many states is at-will employment. It is especially true if there is no language that would indicate otherwise. Pennsylvania is one of those states.
More likely than not, your employer will not spell out your employment status as “at-will” or “just cause”. It is likely that there will be similar language such as, “an employee can only be fired for good reason.” This indicates a likely “just cause” employee. A contract or handbook may also state that the “employee can be fired at the sole discretion of the employer.” This language would likely indicate an at-will employment status.
If you do not have a written confirmation of your employment status, you may be able to rely on verbal communications from your employer. Some courts have accepted certain verbal assertions from your employer. These words take your employment status from at-will to a contracted employee. Be cautious when relying on verbal assertions. Courts are not settled on which words indicate employment as a “just cause” employee.
An employer can only fire a “just cause” employee for good reason. These employees typically sign a contractual agreement to stay on with the employer. Usually, the contract will detail what constitutes “just cause.” If the contract does not define just cause, the employee handbook will likely tell you. It does not mean that you cannot find yourself without a job. Rather, it means that it is more difficult to fire you than an at-will employee. Typically, good reason means things like stealing from work, fighting on the job, or any other examples of gross misconduct. These acts of gross misconduct are such that you will likely let go immediately or after progressive discipline.
If your employer terminated you in violation of your contract we can help you recover. Wrongful termination exceptions for the at-will employee In Pennsylvania, any employee can sue for wrongful discharge or termination only in certain circumstances. In order to have a legally actionable case for wrongful termination, the discharge must violate “public policy.”
Public policy is anything that is so against public decency or the moral good. The courts in Pennsylvania have detailed a variety of reasons that constitutes of violation of public policy. You may have a case of wrongful termination if your employers fired you after any of the following:
Attempts to coerce you into committing a crime
Obeying the law
Showing up for jury duty
Refusal to comply with a lie detector test
Refusing to serve alcohol to a visibly intoxicated individual
Following government regulations for the use and handling of nuclear waste
The law otherwise prohibited the action
The law is clear. Your employer cannot fire you for reasons that violate public policy. The law defines public policy in a number of ways. Keep in mind that the aforementioned list is not exhaustive. If your employer terminated you following a refusal to engage in a practice that is against public policy, you have options.
What You Can Do After a Wrongful Termination
Following a wrongful termination or discharge, you can sue your employer to recover lost wages and future earnings. You may also recover any other financial injury that you experienced as a result of the wrongful termination.
We are Philadelphia-based attorneys. We at Freundlich & Littman have experience in handling wrongful terminations. We are here to help you recover. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.
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Freundlich & Littman, LLC. | 1425 Walnut St Suite 200, Philadelphia, PA 19102 | Phone: (215) 545-8500
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