What may be recovered in a Pennsylvania wrongful termination lawsuit?

If you have suffered a wrongful termination, you may potentially recover several types of damages.

Pennsylvania is an at-will employment state. This means that unless you are employed under a contract or similar agreement, your employer may terminate you without cause. Although this would seem like an employer may always fire you for any reason, this is not the case. If the reason for your termination was illegal, it is considered wrongful termination, which allows you to sue your employer for damages.

Under Pennsylvania and federal employment law, employers are prohibited from terminating the employment based upon the following characteristics:

  • Race
  • Pregnancy
  • Religion
  • Gender
  • Family status
  • Disability
  • Age, if the employee is over 40
  • If the employee is a "whistleblower"-someone bringing the employer's illegal activity to the attention of authorities
  • If the employee has a GED instead of a high school diploma

If you are fired for any of the above listed reasons, you may have a claim for wrongful termination. Similarly, you may have a claim if you engage in an activity that is protected by law. Such activities include filing a workers' compensation claim, taking family or medical leave under Family and Medical Leave Act or filing a complaint for sexual harassment or discrimination.

If you feel you have suffered a wrongful termination, you must first file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). If the EEOC determines there are grounds to your complaint, it will issue you a right to sue letter (as well as take administrative action against your employer). Upon receiving the letter, you may file a civil lawsuit against your employer to recover the following types of damages:

Loss of wages

Under the law, you are entitled to recover any back wages and benefits that your employee owed you prior to the day you were terminated. Additionally, you may recover wages that you would have been paid to you as long as you are out of work. However, once you get a new job that pays as much as your old one, your right to recover future wages ceases. However, you may always recover wages for the period you were unemployed, even after you have started a new job. In cases where you accept a lower-paying position, you are entitled to the difference in wages between your old and new job.

Emotional distress

If you suffer emotional distress, such as anxiety, depression and other physical symptoms, because of your wrongful termination, you may be able to recover damages. However, the amount of damages is not easily determinable in advance, as it is up to the jury to decide how much to award you.

Punitive damages

In cases where the actions of your employer were willful or egregious, you may recover punitive damages. This kind of damages is awarded not because you suffered a particular loss, but to punish your employer for its conduct and discourage others from doing the same. However, like emotional distress, these damages are not easily quantifiable, as they are calculated according to the court's discretion.

An attorney can help

If you think that you were terminated for an illegal reason, it is important to speak to an experienced employment attorney. An attorney can conduct an investigation into the motives behind your termination, determine if any improprieties occurred and help you recover all compensation that you are due under the law.