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Retaliation not a valid reason for termination of employment

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Most employment relationships in the state of Pennsylvania are “at will,” which means that a worker can leave a job or be terminated at any time. There are certain reasons however, that cannot be behind an employer letting a worker go. Retaliation against a worker is one of those situations.

Unfortunately, not all employers extend those rights to their workers. When this happens it is possible that a worker could take legal action against the employer. A worker at a nursing and rehabilitation facility recently did this very thing.

The woman, a licensed practical nurse, was fired after working for the facility for approximately five years. In the course of those five years the woman took time off to provide care to her daughter who had a health condition described as serious. Despite having done this for several years, the woman said it was not until the summer before she was let go that she was told about her rights under the Family Medical Leave Act.

Under the FMLA, a worker may be eligible to take a 12 week unpaid leave of absence from his or her job to address a personal medical issue or care for a close family member. At the end of the absence a worker will have a job to return to.

Shortly after the nurse applied for a leave of absence under the act, she was suspended, allegedly for being disrespectful to a supervisor. Less than two weeks later, her employment was terminated. The woman denies ever having been disrespectful to a supervisor. She believes she was let go because she sought the FMLA leave, and took legal action.

In her lawsuit the woman is seeking:

  • Back pay
  • Liquidated damages
  • Costs and expenses of the lawsuit
  • Legal fees

How this case will be decided remains to be seen. Regardless of why the employer believes that he or she has been retaliated against it is important that workers who believe they have been wrongfully terminated understand that they could have legal options. Contacting an employment attorney for assistance is usually the best place to start.