Do I have a claim for wrongful termination if I was fired without doing anything wrong?
Under Pennsylvania law, most employees are considered at-will employees. In the absence of a written employment contract or a union agreement, an employer may terminate an employee, for almost any reason. Although the action might be “unfair,” unless the employer has illegally discriminated against you (acted in a way that violates anti-discrimination laws), you will probably not have a claim for wrongful termination under Pennsylvania. There are some exceptions to the at-will employment doctrine. The law provides some protection if an employee was fired for a reason that violates a statute or public policy. For example, you may have a claim if you were fired because you filed a worker’s compensation claim, made an OSHA complaint, served on a jury, or refused to perform an illegal act. Edith Pearce, a Philadelphia discrimination lawyer, will provide you with a free consultation and review your case with you.
What is illegal discrimination?
If a specific type of discrimination is listed in an anti-discrimination law, then it is illegal to discriminate against someone on the basis of that specific characteristic. If you are treated differently than other employees because of your race, sex, age, disability or handicap, or national origin, you may have a claim for discrimination. Also, if your work environment is sexually harassing, you may have a claim. Further, if your employer retaliates against you for making a valid complaint about harassment or discrimination, you may have a claim. These are all illegal conduct and protected under the anti-discrimination laws.
What laws apply to prevent discrimination?
Federal law, (specifically Title VII, ADEA, The Civil Rights Act, and EPA) prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, gender, pregnancy, national origin, religion, disability and age (if the person is at least 40 years old). State and local laws often prohibit additional types of discrimination. In Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA) also prohibits discrimination on the basis of ancestry, age, and non-job related disabilities. The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) makes it unlawful to subject people to differential treatment based on race, creed, color, national origin, nationality, ancestry, age, sex (including pregnancy), familial status, marital status, domestic partnership status, sexual orientation, atypical hereditary cellular or blood trait, genetic information, liability for military service, and mental or physical disability, perceived disability, and AIDS and HIV status. The Philadelphia Fair Practices Ordinance prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color, sex, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, ancestry, age, handicap or marital status.
How soon do I have to file a claim for discrimination?
Discrimination laws differ as to time frames, but are generally very short. You may have to file a claim within six months of the discrimination (or even earlier) or be forever barred from pursuing the claim under certain statutes. You should consult a discrimination lawyer like Edith Pearce immediately to protect your rights.
What if I work for a small company with less than 10 employees?
The majority of the federal anti-discrimination laws only apply to businesses that have 15 or more employees. There are three exceptions to this general rule:
- the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, which applies to employers with 20 or more employees
- the Immigration Reform and Control Act, which applies to employers with four or more employees, and
- the Equal Pay Act, which applies to all employers, regardless of the number of employees.
However, state and local discrimination laws often apply to employers with as few as 4 employees or less. For instance, Pennsylvania’s anti-discrimination statute (PHRC) applies to employers with 4 or more employees. New Jersey’s anti-discrimination statute (NJLAD) applies to all private employers, with no minimum employee requirement. You need to consult with a discrimination attorney to determine if you have a claim.
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