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Experts weigh in on domestic abuse as reason for job termination

By: Maria Miller

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. -- It's a story 6 News first reported Tuesday and since then it's generated an enormous amount of attention across the region and even the country. The story has received hundreds of shares online and there have been Facebook pages created in support of Nancy Lane after she was fired from her job as a radio host at Forever Broadcasting.

Lane said she was fired, not because of her job performance, but because of the actions of her ex-husband;. The reason was clearly stated in her termination letter. While Forever Broadcasting continues to say they cannot comment on her firing, Lane said she's grateful for all the support she's received and said she plans to fight her termination.

6 News talked with local experts to see if Lane has a wrongful termination case.  Because of legalities a local attorney and representative from Women's Help Center in Johnstown were not able to discuss Lane's case specifically, but they were able to talk about Pennsylvania law in general and it turns out termination because of domestic abuse is not uncommon.

"Because we're an at-will employment state and there are limited exceptions to it, there's not much you can do if you're fired for a reason that isn't illegal or otherwise prohibited," said Johnstown attorney Michael Parrish. "(Pennsylvania) courts have indicated that you can be fired for good reasons, bad reason or no reasons at all."

Parrish said someone might have a wrongful termination claim if they can prove they were fired because of  discrimination, either against their sex, age, race or religion or because they refused to commit a crime for their employer and, or reported criminal acts of their employer to authorities.

"Absent those kinds of specific prohibitions that are usually governed by statute, you really don't have any recourse," Parrish said.

That includes termination because of the actions of an abusive partner, a scenario the Womens Help Center said it sees all the time.

"He makes them miss work, he takes the car keys, he keeps them up all night, he will cause a disruption at their place of work, he'll threaten their employers ... We see that all the time," said Deborah Wilson. "I have yet to see a man lose his job over a domestic violence case."

Wilson is a criminal justice advocate at the center and said firing an employee for a domestic abuse situation could fall under discrimination and should never be a reason for termination.

"I think it's rewarding the abuser. I think that's exactly what he wants," Wilson said. "There have been cases that they've proved discrimination on because the victims of domestic violence are most often women."

Wilson said there are options other than firing that employers can take when being threatened by an abusive spouse and said it has those resources available at the center in Johnstown.

In the meantime, the charges against Lane's ex-husband, George Lucas Lane, are still only charges at this time.

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Edgar Snyder

Washington Times