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The HR Specialist: Pennsylvania Employment Law

Sometimes an employee discovers she may have a disability, or that it’s time to disclose one she had been keeping secret. How the employer responds to that information may prevent an ADA discrimination lawsuit—or trigger one.

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Not every negative thing that happens amounts to retaliation or discrimination. Employees have to show that any “punishment” they experienced significantly changed the conditions of employment.

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Disabled employees are entitled to reasonable accommodations that allow them to perform the essential functions of their jobs. Employers cannot simply develop a list of one-size-fits-all accommodations for a particular condition.

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The ADA and the Pennsylvania Human Rights Act protect disabled workers from harassment based on their disability. Make sure everyone, including co-workers and supervisors, understands they cannot punish a disabled employee for taking leave.

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The giant Dechert law firm, founded in Philadelphia in 1875, has agreed to settle charges it fired two workers from its payroll department because of their age and gender.

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An accountant for the Valley Forge office of the Chartwell Law Firm saw an opportunity to take money and just couldn’t hold back anymore.

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If you hand out different discipline for two employees who commit similar violations, make sure you document exactly why. That way, if you are later sued, you can explain the difference.

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The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers Pennsylvania employers, has dodged deciding whether a subordinate’s bias can be imputed to the employer.

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The 2nd Circuit joins the 7th Circuit in ruling that sexual orientation is protected from discrimination, a position contrary to that taken recently by the 11th Circuit.

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Sometimes, you have to take a step back and consider the consequences before enforcing a rule against an employee. Take, for example, a strict call-off rule that allows for no deviation.

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Is your HR office short-handed? That could spell big trouble, especially if supervisors have to handle personnel matters without HR’s help. Short-staffed or not, make sure bosses know they must consult HR on key employment law issues.

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Employee assistance programs can be useful for workers facing stress or other challenges. EAP counseling is supposed to be confidential, which means that, except under very rare and unusual safety-related circumstances, information uncovered by the EAP should never be used against the worker.

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If your organization has been served with a discrimination lawsuit, one of the first steps you should take is to check any paperwork from the EEOC or other discrimination agencies. It’s especially important if you don’t recall a particular complaint, such as age discrimination or sexual harassment, having come up earlier.

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The owner of Drake Tavern in Jenkintown, Pa. will serve up $25,902 in back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages to 50 employees after investigators from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division discovered that managers consistently altered employee time card.

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Employers that take the time to document poor performance with solid, objective facts rarely lose discrimination cases. That’s because being able to explain exactly why you had to terminate a worker for poor performance tends to show that discrimination probably wasn’t a factor.

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You should thoroughly train all managers and supervisors on how to treat disabled employees. A worker with a disability who is badly mistreated may be able to claim intentional infliction of emotional distress in Pennsylvania.

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If possible, the same manager who made the hiring decision should also make the firing decision. That’s because presumably a manager wouldn’t hire someone knowing they belonged to an obvious protected classification and then turn around and fire that person because of that status.

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In a recent unemployment compensation benefit decision, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court has concluded that participating in the “gig-economy” doesn’t necessarily constitute self-employment.

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In December 2017, the National Labor Relations Board handed down a decision that changed the test for determining whether employers have engaged in unfair labor practices.

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Coming up with an accommodation isn’t always easy. It’s OK to temporarily assign the worker to different tasks or another department while you figure it out.

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