What constitutes an unlawful termination case?

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What constitutes an unlawful termination case?

I was terminated from my job with no written warnings or write-ups in any form. It also states in the handbook, the procedure for discipline and termination but in the same case states that this is an “at will” employment. There is someone currently working for the company that has been written up 3 times, excessive absentees of 20 days or more in less than 6 months, lateness, no call/no shows. I have missed just 1 day in 7 months with no write ups. Does this not seem like discrimination or unequal treatment and if so, how do I go about suing this company?

Asked on October 14, 2010 under Employment Labor Law, Pennsylvania

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Employee handbooks *can* create enforceable employment contracts--but most often, they don't. That's because if the handbook contains caveats, disclaimers, exceptions, or limitations, those caveats, etc. will be enough to prevent the formation of a contract. For example, while you'd have to have an attorney examine the employee handbook for a definitive answer, usually, if it states in their that employment is still "employment at will," then any terms in the handbook are more suggestions or guidelines than anything enforceable. They may be ignored by the company at will. In this case, that means that they might not have to follow their own discipline, etc. procedures.

If you are an employee at will, the company *may* "discriminate" against you in many ways--there is no obligation to treat employees consistently, fairly, logically, etc. One employee can treated much worse than others. The only real limitation is that there be no discrimination specifically on the bases of legally protected categories: e.g. on the basis of person's race, religion, age over 40, sex, or disability. If you think you were discriminated against on that basis, you should see consult with an employment attorney to see if you do have a case and, if so, what it may be worth.


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