The HR Specialist: Pennsylvania Employment Law

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has affirmed a Philadelphia jury’s huge verdict against retail giant Walmart. In 2006, the jury concluded the company violated state and federal wage laws when it forced employees to work through unpaid breaks and perform other duties while off the clock.

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Effective May 13, Philadelphia em­­ployers of 10 or more must provide one hour of paid leave for every 40 hours an employee works. Mayor Michael Nutter had twice vetoed similar legislation, fearing that the mandate would burden city employers still emerging from the recession.

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Employees who claim they were victims of a sexually hostile work environment don’t have to provide an exhaustive list of alleged hostile acts. Details can be provided later.

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Employees who use a post-­termination appeal process don’t have a pass to miss EEOC filing deadlines. The clock doesn’t wait to start ticking until the appeal process is finished. They still have to file their agency complaints within 300 days of discharge.

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The only appropriate response to a claim of nooses in the workplace is an immediate investigation. That may require involving the police. Show you take the incident seriously even if the source may be a customer or a contractor. It’s the right approach and the one most likely to cut any potential liability after the fact.

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Most employers fail to specifically prohibit workplace gambling, and many sanction the behavior as harmless fun. Don’t bet on it.

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Even after an employee who has participated in employment lawsuits or complaints is discharged for entirely legitimate reasons, he may later sue if he isn’t rehired. Then he’ll try to argue that his prior protected activity was the reason he wasn’t rehired. To avoid such lawsuits, make sure the hiring manager knows little or nothing about those prior activities.

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Back in 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that an employee who was fired after his fiancé—who worked for the same employer—filed an internal discrimination complaint could sue on his own accord alleging retaliation. The fiancé, the court concluded, was within the “zone of interest” meant to be protected from retaliation under Title VII. The Court held that by firing someone’s significant other, the employer in effect would indirectly punish the complainer. Until now, exactly who would be included in the “zone of interest” was in question.

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Here’s something to remember when you are ready to dismiss an employee for poor attendance: You can’t use any FMLA leave as a negative factor, and you can’t include any FMLA leave when tallying absences.

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Although most employers have policies prohibiting discrimination and harassment based on an em­­ployee’s sex, race and religion, many have not yet added gender identity to the list of protected categories. The lack of protection has real consequences for transgender individuals.

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