The HR Specialist: Pennsylvania Employment Law

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments in two lawsuits challenging a state law requiring judges to retire at age 70. A 1989 decision, Gondelman v. Com­­mon­­wealth, upheld the practice as constitutional, but several judges are asking the court to look at the issue anew.

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When we think of bullying, we usually think of kids at school, not adults in the workplace. But, according to a 2010 survey, 35% of American workers have been bullied at work. Unfortunately for those employees, there are currently no federal or state laws that specifically prohibit bullying in the workplace. That may soon change.

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A federal judge in Western Penn­­syl­­vania has chastised the EEOC for not attempting to conciliate discrimination charges in good faith. The criticism stems from a bias complaint the EEOC investigated against a group of six Ruby Tuesday restaurants.

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Employees are supposed to receive the same compensation for the same work regardless of sex. But that doesn’t mean you can’t pay some men more than some women, even if it’s crystal clear that they’re doing the exact same job. That’s because the Equal Pay Act allows for differences that can be accounted for by any factor other than sex.

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Employees who go to HR or the EEOC with a discrimination complaint engage in what’s called protected activity. Even if their claims don’t pan out, they can’t be punished for complaining in the first place. That’s retaliation and can form the basis of a lawsuit on its own, even if there was no underlying discrimination.

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Here’s a reminder that you need to document disciplinary and workplace problems for temporary contract employees, too. It doesn’t matter that they know they only have a job for a set period of time.

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Retail giant Walmart has appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, asking it to overturn a $187.6 million class-action verdict issued two years ago. That decision followed a 32-day trial in 2006 that sent shock waves through the Pennsylvania employer community.

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You never know which fired em­­ployee might sue or for what reason. That’s why you should always carefully document all discipline, up to and including the final reason for discharge. The fact is, a legitimate business reason almost always defeats a discrimination claim.

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The DOL’s Wage and Hour Division doesn’t want to see any funny business when it comes to accurately recording hours worked or paying employees on time. Don’t even think about manipulating payroll systems. Doing so will result in double damages going back three years.

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Courts are getting quicker with the gavel when it looks like a lawsuit might have been filed by an overly sensitive employee who perceives vague comments as harassment.

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