I was fired because I refused to do something illegal. Do I have a right to sue my employer?
UPDATED: February 12, 2020
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If you live in Pennsylvania and you have been fired because you refused to do something illegal, then you have certain legal rights. Being fired for refusal to do something illegal will fall under the category of wrongful termination and can give rise to a lawsuit in which you are able to collect damages.
Filing a Claim Against Your Employer
While Pennsylvania is an at-will state and your employer can generally fire you for any reason or for no reason at all, there are exceptions to at-will employment. One of these exceptions occurs when you are fired for refusing to do something illegal. To allow an employer to fire you for refusal to break the law without any repercussions being imposed on the employer would be bad public policy.
As such, if you find that you are on the receiving end of a wrongful discharge, you may file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and you may also sue for wrongful termination.
- A claim with the EEOC needs to be initiated within 180 days of the date of the wrongful termination by contacting the EEOC or the Human Relations Commission. The commission will look at the case, and if they find it to be valid, they will try to mediate a settlement between the employee and employer.
- If you attempt to settle a wrongful termination case, possible settlement options include getting your job back with full benefits and restoration of your same position, replacement of lost wages, a monetary amount for suffering and stress, and punitive damages.
- If a settlement is not reached, then the commission will pursue legal action or drop the case so that you can bring suit. If you win the lawsuit, then you may be reimbursed for your legal fees, among other damages.
In Pennsylvania, a fired employee has other rights as well. You may be eligible for unemployment benefits if you were fired without cause, if you did nothing wrong, or if you quit the job voluntarily for “good cause.” Another right that you may have is to continue insurance coverage through the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) for up to 18 months after being fired or voluntarily leaving a job.
If you believe you are a victim of wrongful termination, it is in your best interests to consult with a lawyer to find out precisely what your options are and how to proceed with making a claim against your employer.