Wrongful Termination & Retaliation

30 04, 2020

Can You Refuse to Work Without Protective Gear?

By |2020-04-30T22:14:01+00:00April 30th, 2020|Wrongful Termination & Retaliation|0 Comments

The Coronavirus Pandemic Is Forcing Workers to Make Difficult Choices In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, millions of workers throughout the US are being asked to make a difficult choice: forego a paycheck, or go to work and risk contracting coronavirus. Personal protective equipment such as N-95 masks, gloves, and gowns are important tools in protecting workers from exposure to coronavirus. However, our nation is currently in the grip of a massive shortage in such equipment. As a result, many workers—including healthcare workers at the front lines—are being asked to put their health at risk in the workplace. So, if your employer does not provide you with protective gear—and refuses to let you bring your own to work—can you refuse to work under such conditions? What OSHA Says About Working in Unsafe Conditions We already have laws in the US to protect workers from unsafe conditions at work. Under OSHA regulations, you have the right to refuse to perform a task at work if all of these conditions are met: There is an imminent danger of injury or death present. You have asked your employer to eliminate the danger, and they haven’t. There isn’t time to request an OSHA [...]

16 04, 2020

Can You Refuse to Come to Work in the Midst of a Pandemic?

By |2020-04-16T21:00:09+00:00April 16th, 2020|Wrongful Termination & Retaliation|0 Comments

And Can Your Employer Fire You If You Do? In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, as some workers self-quarantine and adjust to working from home, others are continually asked to put their health on the line to keep essential services running—including warehouse and mail delivery workers, grocery store employees, utility and sanitation workers, transportation workers, and healthcare professionals. And with a severe shortage of personal protective equipment such as gloves, masks, face shields, and gowns, essential employees often feel that coming to work means taking an unacceptable risk of exposure. But can you refuse to come to work to avoid the risk of contracting COVID-19—and if you do, is your employer allowed to fire you or retaliate against you? The rules, laws, and recommendations in this area are constantly shifting. But as of this writing, here’s what we know. Your protections under existing OSHA regulations Under pre-existing OSHA regulations, you can refuse to participate in work if the situation meets these three criteria: Doing so would put you in immediate danger of injury or death. You’ve already informed your employer of the risk and they’ve done nothing about it. There isn’t time to go through the proper OSHA channels [...]

15 02, 2020

Wrongful Termination in an At-Will State (Like Pennsylvania)

By |2020-02-15T18:29:23+00:00February 15th, 2020|At-Will Employment, Wrongful Termination & Retaliation|0 Comments

There Are Still Times When It’s Unlawful to Fire You Pennsylvania is an “at-will” state—meaning employers can fire their workers at any time, for any reason or no particular reason at all. In practice, this can lead to situations that are deeply unfair to the fired employee—but are not unlawful. However, there are still some situations where you may have a case in court for wrongful termination. Here are some examples of what wrongful termination looks like in an at-will state like Pennsylvania. Firing You for Discriminatory Reasons Under the law, your employer can fire you simply because they don’t like you. But they can’t fire you for discriminatory reasons—such as religion, race, skin color, gender, disability, or country of origin. Some other examples of discriminatory reasons for firing you include: Your pregnancy status Your age (if you’re aged 40 or older) Your citizenship status Your genetic information You have a GED instead of a high school diploma Firing You Because You Stood up for Your Rights Your employer isn’t allowed to fire you for speaking up for yourself—for example, by reporting sexual harassment or blowing the whistle on safety violations. This holds true even if your accusation turns out [...]

11 01, 2020

When You Take FMLA Leave—And Your Employer Uses It Against You

By |2020-01-11T02:48:40+00:00January 11th, 2020|Family and Medical Leave Act Claims, Workplace Discrimination, Wrongful Termination & Retaliation|0 Comments

Know Your Rights—and How to Protect Them Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), you’re entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year to fulfill caregiving obligations or handle a medical issue. At the end of your leave, you must be able to return to your previous job at your previous level of pay. But some employers resist giving employees the leave they’re entitled to under the FMLA—and may even use it against them. Some examples of that include: Not promoting you because you took FMLA leave Firing you for taking legally protected leave Denying you benefits while you’re on FMLA leave Citing your use of FMLA leave as part of disciplinary action or a negative review When Is It Legal to Fire Someone on FMLA Leave? One of the more obvious violations of the FMLA is when an employer fires an employee while they’re on leave—or just after they return. However, there are situations where it’s legal to do that. Legally, an employer can’t fire you because you’re on FMLA leave. The reason has to be unrelated. Of course, most employers won’t admit that they’re firing you for taking leave you’re entitled to. Some scenarios where it [...]

3 01, 2020

Fired While on Light Duty?

By |2020-01-03T16:14:06+00:00January 3rd, 2020|Wrongful Termination & Retaliation|0 Comments

It’s Surprisingly Common—and Not Always Illegal What happens if you get injured on the job? In Pennsylvania, your employer may offer you a “light duty” position that allows you to keep your pay and benefits while exempting you from physical requirements that could lead to further injury. When it comes to light duty, both employer and employee are supposed to operate in good faith. While employers are usually not required to offer light duty, if they do, they should offer a legitimate job you can physically do. Employers sometimes don’t act in good faith when assigning light duty. We’ve handled cases where employees on light duty were given physically strenuous jobs, or were subject to demeaning treatment. We’ve also seen cases where employees were terminated while on light duty, clearly for pretextual reasons. When Can Your Employer Fire You While on Light Duty? If an employer can demonstrate they terminated an employee for a reason unrelated to a light duty request —such as poor performance, bad attendance, or breaking work rules—the termination could be lawful. However, sometimes employers manufacture justifications for termination simply because they do not want to accommodate a light duty request. Some signs you were a victim [...]

13 12, 2019

Wage Claim Retaliation: When You’re Fired for Reporting Unpaid Wages

By |2019-12-13T02:58:26+00:00December 13th, 2019|Wage Theft & Unpaid Wages, Wrongful Termination & Retaliation|0 Comments

It’s More Common Than You’d Think The Fair Labor Standards Act dictates that non-exempt workers are entitled to make minimum wage, plus overtime for more than 40 hours worked in a week. There are clear definitions of what constitutes “work”—and how employers should calculate each worker’s pay. Even so, wage violations are more common than they should be. In 2019 alone, the Department of Labor collected a whopping $322 million in owed wages for underpaid workers. A few examples of wage violations include: Paying you less overtime than you’re owedNot paying overtime at allTaking illegal deductions out of your paycheckPaying you less than the minimum wageStealing your tips If your employer hasn’t been paying you what you’re owed, you’re entitled to file a report. There are several ways to do this, including: Filing an internal complaint with your companyFiling an administrative wage claim with the US Department of LaborBringing a lawsuit against your employer for FLSA violations You have the right to do any of these things, without suffering negative consequences to your career. But what happens when you act according to your rights—and get punished by your employer as a result? Retaliation for Reporting Wage Violations Retaliation is the [...]

16 11, 2019

What Retaliation for Reporting Sexual Harassment Looks Like

By |2019-11-16T04:42:16+00:00November 16th, 2019|Sexual Harassment, Wrongful Termination & Retaliation|0 Comments

And What to Do If It Happens to You One of your co-workers makes inappropriate comments about your appearance at work. The comments are frequent enough to create a hostile work environment. So you follow the policy your employer has laid out, and report that person to Human Resources. The next week, you’re out of a job. This is a very clear example of retaliation—and it’s all too common. According to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, of all the federal-sector allegations of workplace discrimination, retaliation was the most common allegation—and the most frequent finding. Employers do this kind of thing all the time. Sometimes, as in the example above, retaliation is obvious. But sometimes it’s more subtle. Here are a few scenarios that may be retaliation, if you experience them after reporting sexual harassment. Your schedule suddenly changes Workers facing retaliation may find their schedules rearranged so they have to work on a requested day off, or their work schedule now conflicts with something important—such as classes or picking up a child from school. You’re being demoted If you find yourself demoted to a lower-ranking position, moved to a worse shift, or given different or less desirable duties after [...]

10 05, 2018

Can You Be Fired “At-Will” in Pennsylvania?

By |2018-05-10T18:21:49+00:00May 10th, 2018|Americans with Disabilities Act Claims, Wrongful Termination & Retaliation|0 Comments

In most states, including Pennsylvania, employment is “at-will.” In general, an employer can fire an employee from his or her job at any time and for any reason without recourse by the employee. On the other end of the relationship, an employee can also quit his or her job at any time for any reason without recourse by the employer. There are a few important exceptions to the at-will doctrine. An employer cannot fire an employee for discriminatory or retaliatory reasons. Employees are protected from such actions by employment discrimination statutes and other laws. Also, an employer cannot fire an employee if doing so violates the terms of an employment contract or other contract that sets the terms of the employment relationship. An employment contract can alter the at-will doctrine An employer and employee may enter into a contract that provides conditions of employment that supersede the at-will doctrine. For example, an employment contract can provide that the employee may only be fired for cause or specify the duration of employment. Another example of a contract that alters the at-will doctrine is a collective bargaining agreement that covers union employees and spells out the specific circumstances under which an employee [...]

19 04, 2018

Can You Be Fired For Talking About Your Job On Social Media?

By |2018-04-24T16:35:39+00:00April 19th, 2018|National Labor Relations Act Claims, Wrongful Termination & Retaliation|0 Comments

Federal Law Protects Employees’ Right to Communicate The right of employees to communicate with other employees is protected by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The NLRA protects an employee’s right to engage in union activity or to join with one or more co-workers to attempt to improve working conditions. The law provides the right to discuss work issues and share information about pay, benefits, and working conditions with co-workers or with a union. The NLRA governs relationships between labor unions and employers and prohibits employers from interfering with labor organization rights. The NLRA also protects individual employees, whether or not those employees belong to a union. For example, if you believe that you aren’t being paid the same as other employees who are performing similar work, the NLRA provides the right to speak to your coworkers to determine if you have a valid complaint. The right of an employee to communicate with other employees to improve the terms and conditions of their employment is known as “protected concerted activity.” In general, protected concerted activity requires two or more employees working together to improve working conditions, pay, benefits, or other work-related issues. A single employee may engage in protected concerted [...]

3 04, 2018

Have You Been Retaliated Against For Asserting Your Rights At Work?

By |2018-04-03T14:58:46+00:00April 3rd, 2018|Workplace Discrimination, Wrongful Termination & Retaliation|0 Comments

What is Retaliation? Retaliation takes place when an employee engages in "protected activity" and his or her employer takes “adverse action” against the employee because of that activity. An employee engages in protected activity when he or she objects to, or opposes, unlawful conduct such as employment discrimination. For example, if an employee complains that an employer denied a promotion based on the employee’s disability, that constitutes protected activity. If the employer transfers the employee to a less desirable job as a result of the complaint, that would constitute an adverse action and therefore, retaliation. Adverse actions include denial of promotion, failure to hire, denial or reduction of job benefits, demotion, providing lower performance evaluations, job transfers, changing schedules, and suspension or termination of employment. Verbal or physical abuse can also be adverse actions, as well as threats designed to deter participation in protected activity, such as threatening to report immigration status or to contact the police. Retaliation means any adverse action taken by an employer that might “deter a reasonable person from engaging in protected activity.” An employer is not only prohibited from taking action against the individual who complains about unlawful conduct or files a discrimination complaint. The [...]