Legal and Illegal Terminations in Pennsylvania

There are many types of legal termination in Pennsylvania because the state has at-will employment laws, which mean that unless an employee has a contract, he or she can be terminated at any time for any reason that is not considered unlawful. Types of legal termination of employment in PA include layoffs, reductions in force and firing for cause. Illegal termination of employment occurs when an employee is fired because of discrimination or retribution by the employer. Employees may be terminated with no reason given so long as discrimination or retribution is not suspected. Find out more about illegal and legal types of termination in Pennsylvania by reading the following sections.

Types of Legal Termination in Pennsylvania

The legal reasons for terminating employees in Pennsylvania are numerous. When researching legal reasons for dismissal of employment, it is important to remember that unless an employee has a contract, he or she may be terminated for any legal reason at any time without repercussion. If an employee has signed a time-specific contract, the only legal reason to terminate employment is by establishing just cause. Reasons for just cause terminations of employment in PA include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Willful misconduct or a complete disregard for the employer, its interests, the rules set forth by terms of employment and reasonable standards of behavior
  • Negligence that shows intent of harm or disregard for job responsibilities and duties
  • Absenteeism and tardiness
  • Unsatisfactory performance of work duties and responsibilities
  • Failure of drug and alcohol testing associated with terms of employment

Legal reasons to fire an employee who is not on a time-specific contract are broader. Employers are not required to establish a reason for terminating employment, since the state is an at-will state. As such, employees in PA are subject to other types of legal termination of employment, including the company closing a facility, a mass layoff or a reduction in force. If an employer meets certain size criteria, he or she may be required to give advanced notice of a layoff or closing, but failure to do so does not constitute wrongful termination. Reductions in force and layoffs are acceptable types of legal termination in PA even when a terminated employee is a member of a protected class as described in the section below. To learn more about legal reasons to fire an employee in Pennsylvania, you can download our complimentary guide.

Types of Illegal Termination of Employment in Pennsylvania

Legal reasons to dismiss an employee do not include any type of discriminatory action. Laws prohibiting illegal termination of employment in Pennsylvania are enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). If an employee believes he or she was terminated for illegal reasons having to do with any characteristic that is considered protected under EEOC-enforced laws, he or she may have a case for wrongful termination. These laws directly prohibit firing based on age, disability, gender and race, among other factors. Pennsylvania law also prohibits the consideration of any of the above protected characteristics in determining eligibility to be released during a layoff or reduction in force. If an employee believes that termination under these circumstances was partially based on these types of illegal termination in PA, he or she may be eligible to file a claim. Employees who may have been illegally terminated can take the next step and learn how to file a wrongful termination discrimination charge.

Legal reasons for dismissal of employment also do not include termination based on retaliation for notification of problems in the workplace. Employees are entitled to make valid complaints as a matter of good faith to members of the company and other applicable authorities. When an employee files a complaint with an employer or another appropriate authority regarding any safety, financial or ethical problems in the workplace, he or she is protected from further retaliation. If an employee is dismissed from employment in PA following a report made in good faith, there is reason for investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the EEOC. Employers must adhere to types of legal termination of employment and avoid illegal termination for all employees. To learn more about illegal dismissal of employment in Pennsylvania, you can download our complimentary guide.

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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.