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Does Your Boss Have to Have a Reason to Fire You? What At-Will Employment Means in Pennsylvania

November 25, 2014 Wrongful Termination & Retaliation

You like your job well enough and you’re good at it, but your boss rubs you the wrong way. You get the feeling that you’re not his favorite person either, so you try to avoid him whenever you can.

Then one Friday, your boss hands you your paycheck and tells you that your services are no longer required.

“That’s not fair,” you protest. “I’m a good worker and I haven’t done anything wrong. How can you fire me?”

Your boss refuses to discuss it and asks you to leave.

As you drive away, you find yourself thinking “Is he allowed to fire me just because he doesn’t like me? Is that legal?”

The answer depends on several things.

Pennsylvania is an at-will employment state.  That means that unless a narrow category of exceptions applies, an employee generally serves at the will of his or her employer. In other words, employers generally have the right to terminate employees at any time, for any reason – or even for no reason at all.

Similarly, that also means that employees generally have the right to resign at any time, for any reason, or for no reason at all, with or without notice.

At-Will Doesn’t Apply to Everyone

Nevertheless, there are some important exceptions to the at-will employment doctrine:

Employees who are covered by a collective bargaining agreement are usually protected by special clauses that spell out permissible reasons and procedures for termination.

Civil service workers may be covered by provisions that require “just cause” (usually a valid disciplinary or business reason) for termination.

People who signed an employment contract are typically bound by the terms and conditions of that contract.

When Employers Hide Behind At-Will Employment

However, it’s important to keep in mind that at-will employment isn’t a license for an employer to violate the law.

Some employers may attempt to use at-will employment to justify a wrongful termination that was really motivated by other factors, such as age, race, religion, gender, national origin, disability, the employee’s request for family or medical leave, a claim for workers’ compensation, or, in some instances, complaints about unpaid wages or reports of unlawful conduct.

Contact the Murphy Law Group Now for a Free Consultation

If you feel you’ve been wrongfully terminated, it’s best to seek legal advice right away. 

Email us at, or call (267) 273-1054 for a free consultation.