What Are an Employee’s Rights After Job Termination in Harrisburg, PA?

Individuals who work as employees in the state of Pennsylvania have specific rights. However, Pennsylvania is also an at-will employment state. This means that a worker can be terminated at any time, even for reasons unrelated to their job performance. 

Specific employment rights apply when you’re terminated, though. In this guide, we’ll look at these important rights and what you can do if your employer has terminated you illegally.

What Is At-Will Employment?

Employers in the state of Pennsylvania are allowed to fire employees for any reason and at any time. They’re even allowed to fire someone without “cause.”

There are several important exceptions to this rule, however.

These include:

  • Employment with implied or express (written) contracts
  • Termination due to public service
  • Termination due to discrimination
  • Retaliatory termination

If an employee was hired under contract and the termination violates that contract, the employee may be able to seek legal recourse against their employer. Contracts are binding and all parties must follow the agreements outlined in the contract.

Public service exceptions refer to things like jury duty, voting, or serving in the military. An employee cannot be terminated for fulfilling these obligations. 

Discrimination is not allowed by an employer in any form. Pennsylvania employees are protected against discrimination based on sex, race, religion, or age. Age discrimination specifically applies to workers over the age of 40. 

Retaliation is another illegal form of termination. If an employee files a workers’ compensation claim, for instance, or reports wrongdoing, such as sexual harassment, their employer may not retaliate by terminating them from the position. 

This exception may also apply if an employee refused to do something illegal for their employer.

Final Paycheck Rights

Whether you have been let go from your job or you voluntarily quit, your employer must issue your final paycheck within a specified period of time. 

The state of Pennsylvania requires employers to issue a terminated employee’s final paycheck to them by the next scheduled payday. So if there are two weeks remaining before employees are scheduled to receive paychecks, you will have to wait two weeks for your final check.

Note that employers can choose to issue a final paycheck earlier. The law simply says they must issue it “by” the next payday. 

There are no laws in Pennsylvania that require employers to compensate terminated employees for unused paid time off or sick days. If you don’t have a contract that specifically states that you will be paid for these benefits or similar ones, your employer is not required to pay for them.

Health Coverage Rights

In many cases, terminated employees are eligible to continue the health insurance coverage that was provided by their employer for themselves and their families. COBRA, the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, was created in 1986 as a way to provide terminated employees with temporary health insurance after termination from a job. 

Under COBRA, the former employee must pay for the full cost of continued insurance out of pocket. Many employees don’t know how much their employer is paying towards the total health insurance bill, and thus the cost of COBRA may seem exorbitant, particularly for someone who is newly unemployed. 

Unemployment Rights

In some cases, a terminated employee may qualify for unemployment benefits. Unemployment benefits are paid through a state insurance fund that nearly all workers and employers pay into. This insurance pays eligible people for a set period of time based on how much money they earned at their previous job.

The Pennsylvania unemployment compensation program has three requirements for eligibility. 

First, you must have earned enough money in the given number of weeks or months of employment. Since unemployment is paid as a percentage of your previous earnings, you must have earned enough before you can collect benefits while unemployed.

Secondly, you must have been terminated through no fault of your own. This means that if you voluntarily quit or gave the employer cause to fire you, like stealing from the company, you would not be eligible to receive unemployment benefits.

Lastly, you’ll need to apply for benefits within 30 days of losing your job. As long as you’re receiving funds, you’ll need to take specific actions to remain eligible for benefits.

If you’ve recently been terminated from your job, contact us to talk with a reputable employment lawyer to learn more about your legal rights.