What is discriminatory firing?
Discriminatory firing (a type of wrongful termination or wrongful discharge) is the unlawful termination of an employee by an employer on the basis of a legally protected characteristic such as race, sex, or national origin.
What are Pennsylvania’s laws regarding discriminatory firing?
The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA) forbids employers from firing an employee on the basis of sex. This Act makes it unlawful “to bar or to discharge from employment” an employee on the basis of sex, “if the individual or independent contractor is the best able and most competent to perform the services required.”3
Who does the PHRA cover?
The PHRA covers employers who have four or more employees, including government agencies, charities, and religious organizations.4 It does not cover agricultural or domestic workers, workers who live in the personal residence of their employer as part of their job, or individuals employed by family members.5 All other employees are covered.
How do I bring a claim in Pennsylvania?
The Pennsylvania courts have repeatedly held that there are no separate common law remedies for sex discrimination, including wrongful termination and sexual harassment, because the PHRA preempts all other claims based on discrimination.6 You cannot go directly to court under the PHRA, rather you must first file a complaint with the PHRC.7
How long do I have to bring a claim?
You have 180 days to bring a claim under the PHRA.8
What are the federal laws regarding discriminatory firing?
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) makes termination on the basis of sex illegal under federal law.9 The language contained in this section resembles the state law above, but does not contain the requirement that the employee be the “best able and most competent” person for the job.
Am I covered by Title VII?
Title VII generally covers employers who employ fifteen or more people, but there are some limited exceptions.10 Although most federal employers are covered, employees of the Library of Congress, the General Accounting Office, and uniformed members of the military are not protected by Title VII.11 Other exemptions include: private membership clubs which have received tax exempt status,12 Indian tribes,13 and public international organizations such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.14
How do I bring a claim under Title VII?
In order to bring a claim under Title VII, you have to go through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). You cannot bring a case to court without first doing so.
How long do I have to file my claim under Title VII?
Federal employees must file a claim with the agency committing the discrimination within 45 days.15 Because the PHRC is Pennsylvania’s Fair Employment Practices Agency, private employees have 300 days after the alleged discriminatory practice to file a complaint.16
How do I prove discriminatory firing?
To prove that discriminatory firing has occurred, you must meet a four-factor test similar to the test established in the precedent-setting case of McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green. You must show:
What remedies am I entitled to under Title VII?
If the court finds that your employer has violated Title VII, there are several available remedies. The court has the freedom to demand that your employer take appropriate action, such as ceasing the discriminatory practice, hiring or promoting you, or paying you lost wages as far back as two years prior to your complaint with the EEOC.18
Discriminatory Firing: “It Happened to Me” 22
During the early 1980s, Mary Healy (Mary) was employed as real estate agent with a Pennsylvania company called the National American Corporation (NACO). Mary filed a complaint with the PHRC alleging that NACO had failed to promote her and fired her because she was a woman. In her complaint, Mary showed she had a case for sex-based discrimination. She demonstrated that she had been an excellent employee. For example, she had won several awards and had been selected to train new employees on how to close a real estate deal. Even though Mary had done a great job, several male employees who had not performed as well and were less experienced than her were not fired – in fact some had been promoted!
1 Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, http://sites.state.pa.us/PA_Exec/PHRC/legal/finalorders/E13832.pdf (last visited Mar. 1, 2010).
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