The HR Specialist: Pennsylvania Employment Law

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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On April 1, the U.S. Supreme Court held that arbitration provisions in collective-bargaining agreements that clearly and unmistakably require arbitration of Age Discrimination in Employment (ADEA) claims are enforceable.

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Lauretta Simmons was convicted of embezzling $93,500 from then Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge’s campaign in 2000. Ridge went on to become the nation’s first Secretary of Homeland Security. Simmons apparently went on to greater things as well—to the tune of more than $300,000.

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Odds are that many forms of social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, are already thriving in your workplace. As an employer, it’s best to make a conscious decision about how to address social media issues with your employees. Proactively develop a policy so you don’t get stuck doing damage control—perhaps becoming the latest talk heard ’round the virtual water cooler.

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Lissa Hannan, a Verizon employee in the Pittsburgh area, filed a complaint alleging a male contractor sexually harassed her. The company essentially put her on hold and then hung up. Ten days after she filed her complaint, Verizon fired Hannan. The company ended up agreeing to pay her $37,000 to settle the lawsuit.

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Employers that “regard” people as disabled and then discriminate by firing them or refusing to hire them in the first place will face lawsuits—even if it turns out those applicants and employees aren’t actually disabled. That’s a key part of the ADA.

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Months or even years after the fact, it can be hard for managers to remember what happened during a job or promotion interview. That can be a problem if they have to recall in court the interview and the decisions that resulted. And that can add up to unconvincing testimony, which can cause juries to doubt their sincerity and honesty—and therefore conclude the organization was discriminating.

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Sometimes, you may want to discipline or discharge an employee because of customer complaints. Get those complaints in writing—you may be able to use the letters as evidence that proves you sincerely fired the employee based on the complaints.

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Bridgeport-based employee benefits firm Penn-Mont faces charges from the U.S. Department of Labor claiming the company failed to pay full death benefits to the families of deceased employees covered under its plans.

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A federal jury has awarded $74,000 to Melissa Brown, a former food service director at Plymouth House nursing home in Plymouth Meeting, after the contractor employing her dismissed her when she sought maternity leave. But that was just the beginning …

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