The HR Specialist: Pennsylvania Employment Law

Being arrested for a crime is not the same as being convicted. After all, citizens are innocent until proven guilty, and many arrests never result in convictions. But the presumption of innocence doesn’t mean employers can’t suspend employees who have been charged with crimes—if those alleged crimes may affect their ability to do their jobs.

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A recent federal trial court decision has given new ammo to employees who want to sue their employers for sexual harassment—especially if the alleged harassment involves any kind of touching.

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A woman who was fired for allegedly secretly recording a conversation she had with a supervisor about harassment can still sue for sexual harassment, a federal court has ruled. It did not matter that secretly recording conversations may be a crime in Pennsylvania.

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The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission has ordered Plum Entertainment, a New Hope theater production company, to pay $162,000 to Sharon Sheridan, a former personal assistant who claimed she was fired for complaining about sexual harassment.

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The borough of Ellwood City has agreed to pay $160,000 to former police chief Richard McDonald to settle charges of racial discrimination. Almost immediately after being hired in June 2007, McDonald clashed with Mayor Donald Clyde …

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Employers are responsible for the way their employees behave. Threatening behavior toward fellow employees or customers that causes emotional or physical harm can lead to a negligent-supervision lawsuit.

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Q. If we suspend an employee “pending investigation,” what information must we provide to the employee?

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The financial meltdown has spelled job creation for one office: The Pennsylvania unemployment hotline recently hired 132 additional staffers.

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Philadelphia-based CIGNA has instituted a complete smoking ban at all of its 179 properties, effective April 1.

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As Valentine’s Day draws near, it’s time to take a loving look at that everlasting HR worry … the office romance. Supervisor-subordinate relationships can spell real trouble, and it’s no solace if—at least for a while—the subordinate welcomed the boss’s advances. More cheerfully, there’s good news about where our priorities are these days.

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