Pennsylvania is an “at-will” employment state, which means an Employer can terminate an Employee for any reason whatsoever (provided there is not an employment contract). The Employer can legally terminate an Employee for wearing a blue shirt or driving a particular vehicle. However, there are some instances where an Employer cannot legally terminate an Employee. The most common examples that come to mind are: (1) disability, (2) age, (3) race, (4) gender or (5) religion. If an Employer terminates an Employee for any of these reasons (for any discriminatory reason), the Employee has the right bring a discrimination lawsuit against their Employer.
How do you know if an Employee was terminated for a discriminatory reason?
An Employee has to make sure their Employer actually engaged in discriminatory behavior. For example, the Employer must have violated some law or statute that protects against discriminatory behavior. The most common statutes that protect against discriminatory behavior are (1) the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, (2) the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 and (3) Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”)
The ADA prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities. It ensures equal opportunity in employment for disabled persons. For example, if an Employee is, or becomes disabled, as defined by the ADA, and the Employer uses that disability against the Employee in regards to hiring, promotion or even the terms of employment, the Employee has the right to bring a discrimination lawsuit against the Employer.
Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”)
The ADEA prohibits discrimination against individuals who are at least 40-years of age. For example, if an Employee is at least 40-years old and believes they were fired or their salary was reduced because of their age, the Employee may have the right to bring a discrimination lawsuit against the Employer.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Title VII prohibits discrimination against people on the basis of race, gender, color, religion or national origin. For example, if an Employee was terminated because of their race, the Employee may be able to bring a discrimination lawsuit against the Employer.
What is the procedure for bringing an employment discrimination lawsuit?
File a complaint
Before being able to bring a lawsuit in a Court of Law, every individual must exhaust administrative remedies first. If living in Pennsylvania, the individual must file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) or the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (“PHRC”). These are the two primary administrative agencies used in Pennsylvania.
Wait for agency investigation of your filed complaint
Once a complaint is filed with the EEOC and/or the PHRC, the agency will investigate the complaint against the Employer. After a specific amount of time has passed, if the EEOC and/or PHRC have not made a finding or taken action against the Employer, the individual has the right to ask the EEOC and/or PHRC to release their complaint.
File an employment discrimination lawsuit
Once the EEOC and/or PHRC releases the individual’s complaint, the individual has the right to bring a lawsuit in a Court of Law. The individual can bring a lawsuit in Federal Court or State Court depending on the particular allegations made against their Employer.
When an employee wants to file an employment discrimination lawsuit in a Court of Law, Pennsylvania requires that individuals first pursue justice through the complaint system. It is a hurdle that must be overcome before being able to bring a lawsuit. Therefore, follow the process for filing an EEOC complaint before you file an employment discrimination lawsuit.
If you think you should file an employment discrimination lawsuit, reach out to an employment lawyer because we can guide you through the legal process. Contact us.