Philadelphia Employment Law News

October 2010 Archives

Philadelphia Ballots Include Proposed Charter Changes

Philadelphia voters will have four ballot questions placed before them, particularly the ones on charter changes that can guarantee better pay and benefits for agencies and firms that do business with Philadelphia City Hall. According to Philadelphia Inquirer, the first two questions have to do with allocating money to maintain city infrastructure and provide electronic bidding and contracting by the city.

But Philly locals may be more interested in the other two questions, which concern banning discrimination and extending the city's so-called living-wage requirements. One question would expand on an existing City Charter that bars companies from showing preferences by race, natural origin, or religion. Businesses with competitive bid contracts estimating more than $30,000 would not be able to show prejudice on the basis of "ancestry, sex, gender, identity, sexual orientation, age, or disability."

John D. Green Admits To Not Keeping Track of Employees' Time Off

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported top-level employees at the Philadelphia Sheriff's Office traded in 220 vacation days within the last three years under a system where the sheriff doesn't really monitor time off for his management team. The vacation days were worth over $50,000.

Sheriff John D. Green admitted he did not keep thorough reports of the vacation and sick leave his 17 central staff members have taken. He announced that he would stay past his October 31 retirement date to finish a detailed audit of his office by the city controller, Alan Butkovitz. Green explained his non-union employees were on call 24/7 and did not get any real vacation time.

How To Handle Wrongful Termination In Philadelphia

Wrongful termination involves an employer who has laid off or fired an employee for unlawful reasons. Workers in Philadelphia have the right to bring a claim for wrongful termination against an employer if they believe they were illegally laid off or fired. Philly employees may be entitled to legal remedies such as money damages or negotiations for a proper severance package.

Unlawful reasons for an employer to fire an employee include:

  • Terminating someone as a form sexual harassment;
  • Violating federal and state anti-discrimination laws;
  • Violating labor laws;
  • Violating oral and written employment agreements; and
  • Using termination to get back at an employee who has filed a complaint or claim against the employer.

Workers' Compensation Insurance in Philadelphia

Philadelphia workers are entitled to benefits when injured on the job, despite whether an employer's negligence caused their injuries. These benefits are generally referred to as workers' compensation insurance, or "workers comp," which focuses on providing aid for injured employees without solely concentrating on who to blame for the injury.

FindLaw describes workers comp as a state-mandated program that entails payments required by law to workers who have been injured or disabled in a work-related incident.  Not only does the federal government offer workers comp to federal employees, but states like PA have their own workers' compensation program.

Register of Wills Employees Avoid Overtime Pay

With Philadelphia cutting down on expenses to cope with the decreasing tax revenue, overtime hours and pay appear to be something employers infrequently offer to many city workers. But according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, workers at the Register of Wills don't seem to mind not having overtime hours and wages.

Ron Donatucci has been in charge of the Register of Wills for 31 years, and none of the employees who have worked at the agency have ever received overtime pay. He mentioned that some of the workers just eat their lunch on their desks, but "they have a good attitude, and they are happy they are not getting laid off."

New Jobs: Philadelphia Headquarters For The Mark Group

The energy-efficiency provider known as the Mark Group is recognized for supplying energy-saving products and services to homes. According to the Philadelphia Business Journal, the England-based company will be setting up a U.S. headquarters at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. The city said the company will also produce 250 new jobs for unemployed Philadelphia and neighborhood locals.

Any Philadelphia employment attorney would be pleased to see a great opportunity like this help reduce the unemployment issue in Philly. Select Greater Philadelphia, which is an economic-development nonprofit connected to the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, expects The Mark Group to hire at least 320 workers during the next three years.

PHA Workers Address Oppressive Management Behavior Issues

The main concern for Philadelphia Housing Authority workers during an employee pep rally had less to do with former boss Carl Greene, who has several sexual harassment lawsuits against him. Philadelphia Housing Authority employees complained about raises, pensions, overtime pay, and delayed contract negotiations. But what they really wanted to know was whether PHA managers would change their oppressive behavior, which was similar to Greene's managerial style.

1,400 PHA workers attended the mandatory meeting, which was intended to boost employee morale after six weeks' worth of daily headlines about Greene. Some employees took the meeting as an opportunity to voice their complaints about upper management's conduct. Union official Linda Gibson said the people in management had "their foot on people's neck all day." Many workers described PHA as a place where they feared speaking out would end in demotion.

Religious Discrimination Complaints Increase at Work

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reported complaints concerning religious discrimination in the work field increased 87 percent within the last ten years. According to Inc.com, this is four times more than any other kind of complaint filed, and complaints from Muslim employees have almost tripled in the last decade.

Muslim job complaints make up roughly one fourth of the anti-religious allegations. In an earlier post, we mentioned the incident concerning Philadelphia resident Khadijah Campbell. The 23-year-old saleswoman was fired from Philly's Bare Feet Shoes for refusing to take off her hijab at work. While she was reimbursed for lost wages and offered her job back, she declined returning to the store.

Vasant Reddy Files Lawsuit Against Schneider National Inc.

The Philadelphia Daily News reported a trucking company fired a Muslim man after he refused to transport an alcohol shipment. Northeast Philadelphia local Vasant Reddy, a 35-year-old Muslim man, decided to file a civil lawsuit in federal court against his employer after his termination.

According to the lawsuit, Vasant Reddy claims he explained that it was against his religious beliefs to "consume, possess or transport alcohol or tobacco" when he spoke to his supervisors at Schneider National Inc. in the Philadelphia branch. After he was hired in May 2009, his supervisors said they could accommodate his beliefs.

La Salle's Nonprofit Center Launches Site for Nonprofit Jobs

La Salle University's School of Business's Nonprofit Center in Philadelphia is about to launch a website that will display employment opportunities for nonprofit organizations in the area, according to the Philadelphia Business Journal. Find Nonprofit Jobs will provide a place for Philadelphia-area nonprofits to post volunteer opportunities, board positions, and job openings on the site.

Philly locals and individuals in neighboring regions who are interested in working for an area nonprofit can put up ads for themselves on the Nonprofit Center's site. A PA employment lawyer may see the website as a good way for the jobless to find employment opportunities since unemployment continues to loom in the city.

No Increase on Social Security Benefits This Year

Social security and disability benefits have gone another year without an increase, even though President Obama supports giving a $250 bonus to each of the 58.7 million recipients in the government program. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Social Security Administration said that inflation has not been high enough since 2009 to call for a raise these past two years.

The government's Consumer Price Index from October of every year to September of the following year influences the changes in benefits. President Obama's proposal for a second payment last fall failed in the Senate when the majority voted to block the proposal. This year is the second time since 1975 where retirement and disability benefits had no adjusted increase.

Sony Settles Charles Morgan's Harassment Complaint

Philadelphia resident Charles E. Morgan IV filed a harassment complaint alleging he had been the object of hateful comments from coworkers because of his homosexuality. The Courier Post reported Sony Music Holdings Inc., the Sony DADC plant owner, will award him a cash payment as a result of a settlement that was reached in the harassment case.

A Philadelphia employment attorney can describe the different types of harassment seen at the workplace. Charles Morgan, 27, claimed his coworkers made offensive remarks about his sexual preference a number of times. In July 2009, he was the subject of graffiti marked on machinery and a men's restroom wall. The following month, Morgan alleged a coworker told him "you're too gay to sit here."

Khadijah Campbell Fired For Refusing To Take Off Her Hijab

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Muslim saleswoman and Philadelphia local Khadijah Campbell lost her job at Bare Feet Shoes after her employer fired her for refusing to take off her religious head scarf. After Campbell filed a complaint, the retail store reinstated her and plans to reimburse her for lost wages.

Discrimination, whether it's relative to one's religion, gender, or age, is a common problem and challenge many employees face in the work field, as any Philadelphia employment lawyer can tell you. With 23-year-old Khadijah Campbell, she was hired on the spot after applying for a position at Bare Feet Shoes at the Dover store. No one had said anything when she wore her hijab to her interview.

Legal Tips On Getting Hired In Philadelphia

It's important to recognize what legal restrictions your future employer is subject to, such as what they can and can't say and what during a job interview is actually necessary. There are also laws in Philadelphia that can affect how you conduct yourself during your job search. Luckily, FindLaw provides Philly job-hunters with a few legal tips to consider when it comes to getting hired.

When you apply for a job, it's important to verify that you have good and reliable personal and professional references that are available to talk to your potential employer. Once you're offered with the job, get it in writing, and make sure it incorporates all the terms and conditions you talked about with your employer, including salary, the job description, start date, and benefits.

Employment and Wages Go Down In Philadelphia

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Labor Department reported employment continues to decline even after the end of the recession. Employment has gone down in 296 of the nation's 320 largest counties between March 2009 and March 2010, including all of the counties in and near the Philadelphia area.

While wages were mixed throughout PA, the average wages rose nationally by 0.8 percent in the first quarter, which also amounts to $889. Income rose close to the national average and up to $1,123 a week in nearby New Castle, County Delaware. In Chester County, wages rose up to 1.3 percent to $1,132, and PA's Delaware County had the biggest increase with up to 2.4 percent to $965.

Pennsylvania Addresses Misclassification of Independent Contractors

States like Pennsylvania are working to resolve the problem regarding employers in the construction industry misclassifying workers as independent contractors. According to the Philadelphia Business Journal, Governor Ed Rendell signed into law House Bill 400, which makes intentionally misclassifying construction workers a third-degree felony.

Under House Bill 400, the classification of Philly workers as contractors can also fall under a summary offense due to negligence, and breaking the law would result in paying a fine. When employers wrongly classify their employees, they shortchange the workers and the state by avoiding paying worker's compensation costs, unemployment taxes, and payroll. A Philadelphia employment lawyer can further explain an employee's rights to proper compensation and wages.

Philadelphia Firefighters Receive a 9 Percent Raise

The Philadelphia Daily News reported an arbitration panel offered Philadephia firefighters a new four-year contract, which includes 9 percent raises and escaping furlough days. Mayor Nutter, however, immediately appealed the contract for being too costly because it "offers the city no flexibility to cope with these costs short of cutting services."

The award to the firefighters was similar to the arbitration contract provided to Philadelphia police this past December. Both the firefighters and police resolved their contracts through arbitration since neither union can strike. Firefighters will receive raises and switch to a new health-care bill pay system, and new employees will have the option to choose a "hybrid" retirement plan that includes a 401(k).

Gene Epstein Offers $1K To Every PA Unemployed Worker Hired

Unemployed workers in Philadelphia may find jobs sooner with Gene Epstein's Hire Just One program. Gene Epstein plans to make $1,000 donations to charity on behalf of businesses that hire a jobless individual and keep him or her on payroll for at least six months. The suburban Philadelphia philanthropist believes he can help Americans return to work with his donations.

After building his personal fortune through real estate investments and car sales, Gene Epstein has reserved a portion of his money to give to the first 250 hires. He thinks his incentive will encourage small businesses to hire new employees during a tough economic period, according to The Associated Press. Over 100 businesses have expressed their interest in the new hire program.

Laura Leibert Files Sexual Harassment Complaint Against Carl Greene

The number of female former employees who have charged Carl Greene with mistreatment has risen to a total of six as another woman filed a complaint alleging sexual harassment. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Laura Hesson Leibert, 29, filed a federal complaint against Greene and the Philadelphia Housing Authority, claiming the agency showed no interest or concern for Greene's behavior.

In her lawsuit, Laura Leibert claims her civil rights were violated during the three years she worked at PHA as a program manager before her resignation in October 2008. She accused former PHA executive Carl Greene of retaliating against her when she did not respond to his advances. Leibert also asserted her supervisors disregarded her complaints about Greene's conduct.

Workers And The ADA In Philadelphia

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that prevents discrimination against those in the workforce who have disabilities. Although the ADA serves to protect disabled individuals, it also leaves some ambiguity in knowing what qualifies a person as "disabled" and when accommodation is "reasonable." FindLaw offers insight for employees in Philadelphia who seek a better understanding of the ADA and how it applies in the workforce.

According to the ADA, a person in Philly is considered disabled if he or she has a physical or mental impairment that considerably limits a "major life activity," like walking, talking, seeing, or learning. Determining whether or not a worker is disabled happens on a case-by-case basis. To be limited by a disability, it must keep the employee from being able to work a broad range of jobs. Some disabilities include blindness, wheelchair confinement, and a learning disability.

Philly Paramedics Receive Extension on Healthcare Benefits

Philadelphia paramedics filed for a temporary restraining order (TRO) to extend the amount of time they could receive healthcare benefits. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, a Common Pleas Court judge agreed to extend the TRO until November 1, which allows paramedics like those in Philadelphia to continue receiving health-care benefits from Local 22 of the International Association of Fire Fighters.

After the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board ruled that paramedics were no longer considered members of Local 22, the city moved to shift the benefits for paramedics. With the temporary restraining order, the Nutter administration is kept from switching nearly 220 paramedics into health-care plans that cover independent city employees. A Philadelphia employment lawyer can offer a detailed explanation regarding health plan regulations and health benefits.

Philadelphia Workers Earn More than the National Average

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the average Philadelphia-area worker is earning more money than employees nationwide. The U.S. Labor Department reported that Philadelphia workers are earning an average of $23.53, which amounts to being $1.17 more than the national average wage of $22.36 per hour.

A national survey evaluated wages nationally in July, while the local survey focused on calculating wages in Philadelphia, surrounding Pennsylvania and New Jersey counties, and neighboring parts of Maryland and Delaware. On a national level, lawyers earn on average $50.60 per hour while local lawyers in Philly earn an average of $54.97 an hour.

Losing a Job in PA: How to Keep it from Becoming a Financial Disaster

With the Pennsylvania employment rate reaching nearly 9.2 percent, many Philadelphia residents are faced with the challenges of job loss and unemployment. Anxiety and concerns regarding the loss of income, health insurance, and other benefits arise while job hunting may last for several months. Fortunately, FindLaw provides a few ways to make the transition from having a job to losing one a little easier.

Before cutting all ties with your employer, be sure to collect all compensation you're entitled to from your job. This includes your paycheck up until the last day of work and your right to be paid for unused vacation time and sick or personal leave, if provided by the state or your employer. You should also apply for unemployment benefits as soon as possible. Workers who have been laid off are generally eligible for benefits, while those who have been terminated may be eligible so long as they weren't fired for misconduct.

U.S. Department Of Labor Increases Wages For Hard Labor

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, landscapers, gold clubs, restaurants, and other employers complained they have not been able to find local recruits willing to do hard and dirty labor for $10 an hour or more. This is remarkable even for a PA employment lawyer to hear, considering one in ten Americans are unemployed while some have even given up on looking for a job.

Some of these businesses, including many of those in the Philadelphia, have reached out to the U.S. Department of Labor and asked for approval to bring in foreign workers under the H-2B visa program, which allows companies to legally import labor from other countries. Instead, the Labor Department proposed a rule that will increase wages by an average of $4.38 an hour under the visa program.

Family and Medical Leave in PA

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that allows covered employees to take an extended amount of time away from work or handle particular medical or family needs. FMLA is provided along with workers compensation in Pennsylvania, and both benefits are two separate matters and that can be confusing to distinguish.

While workers compensation benefits workers who have been injured on the job, FMLA allows certain employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave each year and requires that health benefits are upheld during the leave. In an FMLA-related scenario, employers might require the injured worker to manage the co-pay which can get to be somewhat expensive.

David Neil Faces Sexual Harassment Lawsuits

Four female employees from the Bucks County Department of Emergency Communications have filed a federal sexual harassment lawsuit against a male supervisor, claiming he subjected them to unsolicited touching, lewd comments, and pornographic images. According to PhillyBurbs.com, the women have also stated they were made to endure a hostile work environment when the county ignored their requests for help.

Plaintiffs Maura McCormick, Marie Funk, Nicole Crescenzo filed the lawsuit against David Neil Jr., who was the radio room's previous assistant superintendent of operations. 911 calls go directly to the radio room, which also guides police and other first responders to emergency scenes. Former radio room worker Lucille Oliveri has also filed a suit against Neil, but her case is still pending. All four women seek monetary damages in their suits.

Two Scranton Policewomen Settle Gender Discrimination Lawsuit

Policewomen Jill Foley and Melissa Forsette sued the city of Scranton in October of 2009 on claims of gender discrimination, a hostile work environment, and retaliation. The Times Tribune reported the two Scranton police officers have finally settled their federal civil rights suit against the city yesterday.

The lawsuit arose from former Chief David Elliot referring to the patrolwomen as "overtime whores" in July 2008. Not only did the remark bring Elliot to resign after nine years as the city's top cop, but it also called attention to his history of prejudice against women. Jill Foley and Melissa Forsette claimed they were deprived of job-training opportunities and overtime pay. Their lawsuit shed light to the issues of discrimination and harassment against female police officials and how inefficiently those problems were handled in Scranton.

Worker Unions Negotiations With Mayor Nutter Still On Hold

Mayor Nutter has been at odds with Philly's blue- and white- collared workers for the last 15 months. According to the Philadelphia Daily News, both parties have not come to an agreement on renewed contract terms as the worker unions grow more impatient waiting for a raise. No formal negotiations with District Council 33 or 47 of the American Federation of the State have taken place since contracts expired in June 2009.

Mayor Nutter had discussed one-year contract deals that included bonuses with all four unions when he first came into office. This past December, the police have been the only group to actually reach a contract through binding arbitration. Their contract consists of raises and pension changes for potential hires, and it granted the city the right to put furlough days into effect.

Unfilled Positions Cause Frustration Among The Jobless

With the unemployment rate at a high in the U.S., economists and job seekers identified a contributing factor to the problem: employers may not be trying as hard when it comes to filling the open positions they have. According to the Wall Street Journal, employers even in Philly might even be seen as being pickier since companies' faith for consumer demand continues to dwindle as their uncertainty for government taxes rises.

Companies have focused on getting more out of their current employees as they wait on choosing the best candidate for an opening. Even if presented with the right candidate, businesses are still taking a longer amount of time filling job positions. The unemployment rate has steadied at 9.6 percent, and employment has grown even slower than low level job prospects would suggest.

PA Teachers Threaten To Strike

As any PA employment attorney can tell you, two of the most important issues an employee can come across are wages and benefits. The Philadelphia Daily News reports the school board of Methacton district in Montgomery County has yet to reach an agreement regarding the wages and benefits of their educators. In response, Methacton teachers are threatening to go on strike.

The Methacton district has 440 teachers and serves 5,300 students. The school board hopes the association reflects on the effect a strike would have on the students and community. However, the PA State Education Association, which includes the teachers' union, had spokesperson Robert Broderick state that a deadline was set because the teachers "were in their second year working under the terms of a contract that already expired in June 2009."

Hilary Koprowski Files Age Discrimination Lawsuit

Vaccine researcher Hilary Koprowski, 93, filed a discrimination lawsuit against his employer Thomas Jefferson University, claiming the institution violated the Americans With Disabilities Act. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Koprowski asserted that Jefferson disregarded his age-related needs when the university decided to cut down his office space to less than a third of the original size.

A Philadelphia employment lawyer can see how tension developed between the two sides as underlying issues of money and progress also arose in the dispute over space. After working at Jefferson since 1992, Hilary Koprowski accepted a one-year employment contract and final renewal with the school this past June. His work centers on genetically engineering plants to carry vaccines, which has been financed through grants until this year because the money wasn't enough to cover the costs of the Koprowski's labs and support staff.

Woman Files Sex Discrimination Complaint Against Carl Greene

A 26-year-old engineer filed a complaint alleging sex discrimination against former Philadelphia Housing Authority Executive Director Carl. R. Greene. The woman, who has asked to not be identified, is one out of five women who have filed a claim with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission against Carl Greene. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported this issue resulted in Greene's termination by the PHA board, which he only found out through the media.

The woman who filed the claim started working at PHA in 2006 and said she received a quick promotion and raise after working closely with Carl Greene. When he discovered she was dating another employee who later became her husband, the engineer was transferred in 2008 from an office position to running a maintenance program that required long hours and weekends. She believed the move was punishment "for dating someone who worked [at PHA]."