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School layoffs cause concern for Pennsylvania employees

Many Pennsylvania readers already know about the difficult budget situation facing many of our nation's school districts. Particularly in larger cities, school districts are being forced to make tough choices in the face of budget contraints, which means cutting arts and sports funding and limiting staff. 

Here in Pennsylvania the Philadelphia school system has made the difficult decision to lay off each of the 160 assistant principles currently employed by the district. 

These layoffs are causing concern for many in the public sector, particularly government workers or those who are members of a union who believed that they had job security. In addition to concerns about finding more work, Pennsylvania government and school employees are also worried about whether or not the layoffs comply with the law and whether their rights are being respected during the process.

This is a state with at-will employment, which means that for most of us who do not have contracts at work, it is permissible to fire someone at any time for any non-illegal reason. Discrimination is an example of an illegal reason to fire an at-will employee, so it is important to look around when layoffs are occuring and make sure that employers are not making decisions based on race, gender, or other protected categories. 

On the other hand, employees who are a member of a union typically have a contract with their employer. In that case, the employer must carefully follow the terms of that agreement with regards to firing or layoffs. If they do not, employees have the ability to seek specific enforcement of a term that was neglected. 


Source: Business Insider, "Every Assistant Principal In Philadelphia Is Getting Laid Off Today" Pamela Engel, June 7, 2013.