What employee rights are available to those working an at-will job in Pennsylvania?
UPDATED: March 10, 2020
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Although Pennsylvania is an "at will" employment state, an employee that is fired in Pennsylvania does have legal rights, especially if he or she was wrongfully terminated. Wrongful termination occurs when an employee is fired for an illegal or improper reason, including discrimination, being asked to do something illegal, asking for accommodations for disability or religion, requesting leave, and in retaliation for being a whistleblower.
Understanding Pennsylvania Employee Rights
If you lose your at-will job in Pennsylvania, you may have the right to unemployment benefits if you were fired through no fault of your own. You may also be eligible if you left for “good cause." In addition to unemployment benefits, you can generally continue to receive health insurance coverage as part of your employer's group plan through the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). While you do need to pay the full premiums yourself, you can keep this discounted rate for 18 months.
Aside from these general benefits available to any laid off employee, an employee in Pennsylvania also has the right file a claim if he feels he was wrongfully terminated. If the employee wins the wrongful termination case, he may be allowed to recover legal fees as well. Claims need to be filed within 180 days of termination and most often are resolved when a settlement is arranged by the EEOC or the Human Relations Commission. Possible settlements include getting your job back, lost wages, replacement of benefits, reimbursement of legal fees, punitive damages, and monetary compensation for your stress and suffering. If a settlement is not reached, the EEOC or the Human Relations Commission may file a civil suit or give the employee leave to file a lawsuit.
If you have been fired or laid off, you should consult a lawyer about your rights as an employee. Your attorney can help you to understand what these rights are, even for at-will employment situations, and can assist you in making a claim for wrongful termination if the circumstances are appropriate.