At-Will Employment and Exceptions in Pennsylvania

“Is Pennsylvania an at will state?” Although at will employment exceptions in Pennsylvania do exist, it is considered an at-will employment state. There are three major exceptions to at will employment, and states may adopt these exceptions as they wish. Exceptions to at will employment have been established to protect you if you are terminated for a reason that directly contradicts public policy, after an implied contract has been established or by a termination not made in good faith. Learn more about exceptions to at will employment in Pennsylvania by reading the following sections.

Defining At Will Employment in Pennsylvania

“What is employment at will in Pennsylvania?” is one of the most commonly asked questions for both employers and employees. At-will employment laws were established under the belief that employees should be able to leave a position they no longer want to hold, and employers should be able to terminate employees in the same manner. While there are exceptions to at will employment in PA, the concept of at-will employment means that an employee may be terminated from employment at any time with no reason given or for any reason not related to discrimination or retaliation. It also means that employees may also resign from a position at any time without reason or for any reason whatsoever.

“Is Pennsylvania an at will state?” is a common question asked by employers and employees. While exceptions to at will employment in Pennsylvania exist, most employees are considered at will employees. This means that an at will employee in PA can have his or her employment terminated at any time, so long as the reason is not for discrimination or retaliation. National and state laws prohibit companies from firing employees because of sex, race, religion, disability, age or nationality. Federal laws exist to protect employees against illegal termination as a result of a complaint filed against an employer. Every other form of dismissal, including reductions in force and layoffs, meet the employment at will standards set forth by Pennsylvania. To learn more about at will employment, you can download our complimentary guide today.

At Will Employment Exceptions in Pennsylvania

Three exceptions to at will employment have been established and held up by the court system. These at will employment exemptions are the public policy exception, the implied contract exception and the covenant of good faith exception. These at-will employment exceptions arose out of a perceived need to protect employees from terminations that, while still technically legal, did not seem just. The exceptions are outlined further in the following sections.

Public Policy Exception to At Will Employment

The at will employment exception known as the public policy exception holds that employees may not be terminated for reasons that are against explicitly stated or long-standing policies of the state. This exception to at will employment means that employers may take no action against employees or expect any action from employees that would otherwise be prohibited by state law. For example, if an employee knew that his or her employer was participating in fraudulent activity and the employee was asked to lie about this to authorities, the law prohibiting perjury could establish wrongful termination under the public policy exception.

Implied Contract Exception to At Will Employment

The second exception to at-will employment is the implied contract exception. This exception to at will employment provides for inferred but not official contracts to be acknowledged. While at will employment laws generally dictate that an employee without an explicit contract may be terminated at any time, an employee may have been led to believe that he or she was protected from termination under certain circumstances and therefore were wrongly terminated under the implied contract exception.

Implied contract exceptions to at will employment are often based on employee manuals or handbooks that dictate policies and procedures for work activities. An exception to at will employment may exist if the manual is written in such a way that implies an employee will be retained so long as he or she adheres to these policies and are not subject to disciplinary action.

Covenant of Good Faith Exception to At Will Employment

The covenant of good faith exception, more commonly known as the good faith exception to at will, intends to protect employees from terminations motivated by malice. This exception has been extended to include such cases as termination to avoid paying benefits. Though this is one of the lesser accepted exceptions to at will employment, as it nearly dictates providing a reason for termination, it has been accepted and upheld in seven states.

Exceptions to At Will Employment in Pennsylvania

Only one of the exceptions to at will employment is valid in Pennsylvania. Currently the only at will employment exception in Pennsylvania is the public policy exception. If you feel that you have been terminated in a way that violates Pennsylvania state law or policy, you can learn how to file a wrongful termination complaint with the government as well as pursue legal action against the company. To learn more about at-will employment in PA and filing a wrongful termination charge, you can download our comprehensive guide today.

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What Kind of Employment Development Services Are Available in Pennsylvania?

If you are currently unemployed and need help finding a job, the state of Pennsylvania offers unemployment benefits to eligible applicants, in order to help them get by while pursuing work. In addition to financial assistance, the Employment Development Division of Pennsylvania also offers training benefits, which allow unemployed individuals to learn new skills and get a higher education so that they can earn a better living. Find out more about these employment services by downloading our guide.


What Education Assistance Is Available in Pennsylvania?

Just as unemployed individuals can benefit from services offered by the state, so too can college students. Pennsylvania students can qualify for financial aid from the government, such as loans and grants, which can help them cover the costs of higher education. Find out how you can get financial assistance for your schooling by downloading our guide.