Pennsylvania common law protects employees from discharges that violate public policy, but what violates public policy isn’t defined.
Courts must therefore decide what the term means. For example, the term has led to a finding that firing someone for making a workers’ compensation claim violates public policy.
The good news is that courts appear reluctant to expand the law to cover many other circumstances.
Recent case: Donna Henderson claimed she was fired from her job with NutriSystem because she was ill and needed to be off work. She had a cold. Because she didn’t call in properly, the company fired her.
She sued, arguing that she had been terminated in violation of public policy. The court refused to expand the law to cover being fired for having a minor illness. (Henderson v. NutriSystem, No. 08-592, ED PA, 2009)
- You can discipline worker whose griping boils over
- If possible, have the manager who hired the employee also do the firing
- When misbehavior demands termination, it's best to stick with one reason for firing
- Retaliation claim doesn't win if it's filed in wrong court
- Key to beating lawsuit: Belief worker broke rule