At-will work laws play a role in wrongful termination defense

On Behalf of | Jul 1, 2022 | Business Litigation |

Pennsylvania, like most other states, has at-will employment laws. It means that an employment arrangement is subject to immediate termination at any point by either of the parties, and the law states that either party can assert that right.

A worker can walk off the job in the middle of a shift without legal repercussions, and an employer can terminate a worker at any point after hiring them. Even if there is a contract, the arrangement can end at any point unless their contract says otherwise.

Workers still have certain protections

Discriminating against someone for a disability, punishing them for claiming workers’ compensation or retaliating against them for reporting sexual harassment by a supervisor are all illegal reasons for termination. An employer cannot dismiss workers if they refuse to engage in unlawful activities. They also must take back an employee who takes leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Employees working on commission have an exception known as the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. This prohibits employers from terminating an employee based on not paying them their earned commission.

Documentation can protect the employer

Considering these protections, disputes or litigation may arise, and companies might need evidence of lawful justification for terminating someone. A string of recent poor performance reviews or several major disciplinary infractions in recent months could be a reason to terminate a worker that would hold up in court.

The burden of proof is on the worker

Regardless of circumstance, the employee claiming wrongful termination must convince the courts with a preponderance of evidence supporting their claim that the employer fired them for an illegal reason or an illegal reason other than that given to the employee.

Ensuring that your company keeps all relevant employee records and tactfully handles all terminations can go a long way toward preventing and defusing claims of discrimination or misconduct. Understanding how to protect a company against wrongful termination claims can help preserve its’ culture and defend its’ reputation.