Employees in Pennsylvania or New Jersey are subject to the “at will employment” rule, which means, with few exceptions, that unless there is a contract or collective bargaining agreement between the employer and the employee, either the employer or the employee may end the employment at any time and for almost any reason. As noted below, even though “at will” employees can be terminated for “any reason,” there are a number of laws that provide protection for employees. Generally, these laws provide protection if an employee is treated differently at work, terminated from their position because of the fact they belong to a particular protected group, or terminated from their position for engaging in protected activity or being a “whistleblower.”
Employers cannot discriminate against or wrongfully terminate employees based upon gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, medical condition, military service, national origin and other issues, even under at will employment.
Other exceptions to “at will employment” involve terminations that are “contrary to public policy,” but these situations are very rare. Courts have held that terminations in violation of public policy include situations where an employee is terminated because the employee: refuses to perform an illegal act; reports illegal activity (if required to do so by law); refuses to take a polygraph; misses work for jury duty; files a workers’ compensation claim; or files an unemployment compensation claim.
In addition, there are numerous state and federal statutes that prohibit an employer from terminating an employee for following the requirements of the law or for making a complaint in accordance with the law, including, for example, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Family and Medical Leave Act, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act, and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination.
Determining whether to pursue a legal claim is an important decision. You should be aware of your rights and prepared to take action if your rights are violated. Bell & Bell LLP offers free initial consultations, and we will take the time necessary to understand your situation and concerns.
If you believe that you have been discriminated against because of your age, you should seek immediate legal assistance. For a consultation with a lawyer at Bell & Bell LLP regarding age discrimination, call 215.569.2500 or contact us online.