Philadelphia Employment Law News

June 2011 Archives

Philadelphia school unions refused to work with the school district in making concessions of $75 million. Instead, the unions are readying themselves for a possible strike or court battle reports the Philadelphia Daily News.

Last month, the Philadelphia school district demanded $75 million from the unions due to the district’s enormous deficit. The school district even threatened to cancel the union contracts if the unions did not give in.

According to the Daily News, the school district has since backed off this threat, though the unions continue to refuse to work with the district.

OSHA Investigating Fatal PA Trench Collapse

A 27-year old construction worker, Butch Sweitzer, died when a trench he was working in collapsed and buried him alive. Sweitzer had been connecting water lines in the ten-foot trench just outside of Lancaster when the walls around the trench collapsed filling the hole with dirt, reports CBS. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is investigating the accident.

This accident happened less than a week after OSHA completed its investigation of an almost identical trench accident at nearby Etters. In that accident, 20-year old Jory Raber was killed connecting drainage pipe in a 20-foot trench. Similar to Sweitzer, the trench collapsed and Raber was buried alive.

Black Philly Police Officers Settle Race Discrimination Suit

An association of black Philadelphia police officers have reached a settlement with the city in a race discrimination suit involving alleged racially-charged comments on a website for police officers.

According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, the racial comments were made on the website Domelights.com, a site where city police officers discuss crime, news, and other gossip. The black Philadelphia police officers association claimed that city officers would frequently make “blatantly racist and offensive” comments on the site.

Domelights is not affiliated with the Philadelphia police department, however it was started by an officer and was primarily frequented by Philly cops reports the Inquirer.

Supreme Court Rules for Walmart in Class Action Suit

The Supreme Court of the United States dealt a blow to the massive Walmart class action lawsuit brought by female Walmart workers against the giant retailer. In its decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the class of female Walmart workers (upwards of 1.6 million women) did not have similar enough legal claims in a sex discrimination lawsuit to justify a class action lawsuit, reports the Associated Press. Instead, the Court found that smaller groups of more similarly situated workers, or even individual workers, could bring separate claims.

According to the AP, the class of women workers claimed that Walmart, the nation's largest private employer, engaged in sex discrimination by consistently underpaying women and denying them promotion opportunities relative to men.

However, without ruling on the merits of the women's claims, the Supreme Court found that there was not enough "common elements" in the alleged sex discrimination to warrant the massive Walmart class action.

A three-judge panel in Pennsylvania mostly affirmed a 2006 jury verdict against Wal-Mart awarding its workers $187.6 million for missed rest breaks and unpaid "off-the-clock" time. The panel basically determined that this was not the case of a runaway jury making a huge verdict against the retail behemoth. Instead, the court pointed to Wal-Mart's own records showing wage violations and missed rest breaks to support the jury verdict reports Reuters.

According to Reuters, in 2006, a class of about 187,000 current and former Wal-Mart workers brought suit against Wal-Mart claiming missed breaks and unpaid worktime. The workers claimed that Wal-Mart instilled a corporate culture that pressured low labor costs and high profitability, and because of this culture, workers were forced to work through their breaks and they were not paid for all of their hours worked.

Bucks County Court Sued for Racial Harassment

Mary Kasper, a former supervisor in the Bucks County court system, has sued the County for racial harassment. In her lawsuit, Kasper claims that she was the victim of a racially discriminatory joke and that the county retaliated against her when she complained.

Kasper, who is Caucasian, says that the problems began when she adopted a three-year-old African- American boy. According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Kasper kept a photo of her son on her desk, and a coworker jokingly took the photo and superimposed the boy's image on a list of the county's top 10 child-support scofflaws. Kasper says that she was singled out because her son is black.

After walking out on their jobs last week to protest a lack of water and air conditioning, a group of South Philadelphia workers returned to their jobs at a Hyundai-Rotem factory. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that about 50 to 60 employees left their posts at the factory hours before their shifts ended to protest a lack of cold water and fans at the factory, and a broken air conditioner in the lunchroom, on a day when outdoor temperatures hit near triple digits.

The workers are assembling rail cars at the Hyundai factory and have been battling their employer for some time over alleged abusive work conditions. According to the Inquirer, the workers were especially upset by the lack of air conditioning given the fact that their managers were able to enjoy functioning air conditioning in their private trailers.

Philadelphia-based Asian World of Martial Arts, Inc., a distributor of martial arts supplies, agreed to pay $100,000 to settle an age discrimination lawsuit. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed suit against Asian World of Martial Arts after the company instituted a policy mandating termination of employees over the age of 67.

Morris Pashko, a 74-year old controller for Asian World of Martial Arts, was the first victim of the policy and was fired due to his age alleged the EEOC. Previous to his termination, Pashko had a good performance record in his 26 years of employment with the company.

Philadelphia Sick Pay Bill May Exclude Small Businesses

An amendment to Philadelphia's proposed paid sick leave bill that will exempt small business owners is set to be introduced. This is just the latest amendment to the controversial bill that would require Philadelphia business owners to provide employees with paid sick time off reports the Philadelphia Daily News.

The original bill would have given employees at businesses with 11 or more employees up to nine paid sick days a year, and employees at businesses with 10 or fewer employees up to five days. But after a string of complaints from small business owners, that number was reduced to seven and four days respectively reports the Daily News. Now small business owners may be exempt from the bill completely and would not be required to provide their employees any paid sick leave.

Philadelphia casinos like SugarHouse and Parx may have felt the pressure to increase the sex appeal of their cocktail waitresses given recent trends in Atlantic City and Las Vegas that favor ever-shorter skirts and ever-younger waitresses. However, upping the ante on sex appeal may also up the ante on liability for sex and age discrimination lawsuits reports the Philadelphia Inquirer.

In nearby Atlantic City, feminist attorney Gloria Allred is currently knee-deep in a sex and age discrimination lawsuit filed by 15 terminated cocktail waitresses against the Resorts Casino. According to the Inquirer, the 15 waitresses were long-time employees who were fired from the Resorts for allegedly not being sexy enough after the casino adopted new, revealing costumes for its waitresses.

Philadelphia School Unions May Strike Due to Budget

The Philadelphia School Reform Commission's decision to adopt an "interim" school budget calling for deep cuts and many lost jobs may cause Philadelphia school workers to strike. According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, 3,409 positions may be eliminated next year, including 1,158 fewer teaching positions.

Along with job losses, the Inquirer reports that Philadelphia's five school labor unions have been called upon to re-open contract negotiations and concede $75 million back to the district, essentially requiring unions to return $75 million in salary and benefits that were bargained for in good faith.

National labor statistics show that one in five American men from age 25 to 54 are not working. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that this problem is even more pronounced in Philadelphia.

The Inquirer describes this group of Philadelphia men not working in their 30s, 40s, and 50s as the "lost generation". The Inquirer reports that the increased number of unemployed male workers may be due to the loss of factory jobs in the Philadelphia area as well as the high level of minorities and ex-convicts in this group of unemployed.