The HR Specialist: Pennsylvania Employment Law

Workplace investigations sometimes open a can of worms. What if, for example, you find out that an employee complaining about sexual harassment had engaged in wrongdoing, too? Even if the wrongdoing is related to the underlying sexual harassment complaint, you can and should punish the employee for that.

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If the EEOC thinks a complaint it receives may have national implications and wants more information, it has the power to expand its investigation. The agency can seek subpoenas to demand a long list of records from your company as it seeks to develop a broader, perhaps national case against you. The good news is that federal courts generally will scale down the request if you ask.

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According to the EEOC, Pittsburgh-based Lifecare Hospital showed a remarkable lack of compassion when it fired business manager Diana Altieri-Hand, who had cancer at the time. Saner heads prevailed once hospital officials contemplated the prospect of a hospital justifying to a jury why it mistreated a cancer patient.

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Are Pennsylvania employers ready for yet another category of protected employees? Another bill has been introduced in the General Assembly that would protect all Pennsylvanians from employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.

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Tullytown-based Meenan Oil has settled an age discrimination suit filed by 72-year-old Louis Ceccoli, who was fired and then replaced by a substantially younger worker. Ceccoli built his case on derogatory comments his sales manager made about older workers.

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When the New York Mets play in Philadelphia, they stay at the Westin Philadelphia in Center City. In August 2007, John Dunlap was staffing the hotel’s front door when he attempted to move the ropes back to make more room for the entering ball players. That’s when a New York fan cursed at him—and that’s where the trouble began …

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Occasionally, an employee correctly uses an obscure word that someone else mistakes for an offensive one. When that happens, suggest using another term even if the term they are using is technically appropriate.

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WTXF TV news anchor Tom Burlington has sued his former employer claiming discrimination after he was fired for using the “N-word” in an editorial meeting called at the Philadelphia station to discuss a news story about a mock funeral to bury the “N-word.”

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The Keystone State ranked 29th out of 51 jurisdictions in the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council’s (SBEC) Business Tax Index for 2009, a score that would have been better if it didn’t have the nation’s highest state corporate tax rate.

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Pennsylvania common law protects employees from discharges that violate public policy, but what violates public policy isn’t defined. Courts must therefore decide what the term means.

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