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Your Employer Asked You To Do Something Illegal. You Refused. Can They Fire You?

August 5, 2022 At-Will Employment

If They Do, You May Have Legal Recourse

As an employee, you’re supposed to follow your supervisor’s orders. But what if your supervisor’s orders are illegal?

Pennsylvania is an “at will” state. That means generally speaking, your employer can terminate your employment for any reason. However, there are some acts in the workplace that are protected by law, and your employer may face legal repercussions for firing you for those reasons. One of the clearest is refusing an illegal order. 

Your Employer May Face Legal Consequences for Firing You

In at-will states like Pennsylvania, your employer can usually fire you for any reason. However, that doesn’t mean they won’t face legal scrutiny for firing you after you refused an illegal order.

Employers sometimes muddy the waters by claiming they fired you for different reasons—and they may even lay the groundwork by providing bad reviews leading up to your firing, so it seems like they had good cause to let you go.

However, that groundwork can be examined by the courts—and if it is, it may not hold up. Courts look for the “suddenly incompetent” situation, where an employee who received good reviews prior to the incident suddenly begins receiving negative reviews.

They may also face legal scrutiny for giving that order in the first place.

What You’ll Have To Prove in Court 

That said, that doesn’t mean you won’t face challenges in the courtroom. The things you’ll have to prove include:

  • That you were fired specifically because you were ordered to do something illegal—and that this was the sole and only reason;
  • That the employer did specifically order you to do something illegal;
  • And that the act they ordered you to perform is a criminal offense.

The burden of proof can be high. This is where an experienced employment lawyer can help. 

Were You Fired for Refusing To Do Something Illegal?  

If you believe you were fired specifically because you refused an illegal order, you may have recourse in court. This exception to at-will employment can be complex, and your attorney can evaluate the evidence, determine whether the law was broken, and hold your employer accountable.

Call us at 267-273-1054 or email us at for a free, confidential consultation today.

The information provided here does not constitute legal advice. It is intended for general purposes only. If you have questions about a specific legal issue, you should speak to an attorney.