Philadelphia Employment Law News

August 2011 Archives

School Sexual Harassment in Pennsylvania

In the last week, two Pennsylvania school districts were sued by employees for sexual harassment. It's a sad state when employee on employee sexual harassment may actually be a relief from the teacher on student sexual abuse that recently made headlines.

In the first case, Donna Dunar, a former administrator at the Centennial School District, sued the district claiming that she was sexually harassed by former superintendent Thomas Turnbaugh, reports

Philadelphia Pension Qualification Rules Tightening?

After two ex-Philadelphia city workers received pensions for nearly seven years following convictions for felonies, the city may see Philadelphia pension qualification rules tightened.

Former juvenile probation officer Sherman Washington and former court employee Gladys McDowell received pension checks for years following convictions for theft and tampering respectively, reports the Philadelphia Daily News. These two, along with three other former city employees, were disqualified from receiving further pension checks due to their felony convictions.

Cat's Paw Ruling Cited in Police Officer Discrimination Case

A federal appeals court upheld a $555,000 award to Ray Carnation in a Philadelphia police officer discrimination case. In reaching its decision, the court cited the recent U.S. Supreme Court "cat's paw" case that held that an employer can be liable for discrimination even if the decision-maker acted without any discriminatory bias.

Carnation was a Philadelphia police officer and he claimed that after he complained about racial tension on the job, a supervisor assigned him unfavorable duties at unfavorable locations, reports Business Insurance. After some time, Carnation was terminated for insubordination and neglect of duty by a police board of inquiry.

Second Longshoreman Killed in Philadelphia Docks

A second longshoreman was killed in as many weeks at the Philadelphia docks. Vernon Knight, 54, fell to his death over the weekend while unloading a ship at Tioga Marine Terminal in Port Richmond.

Knight was helping unload a vessel Saturday afternoon when he fell from a pontoon in the upper deck to the lower hold, reports The Philadelphia Inquirer. Knight was giving directions to the crane operator, who could not see where to place the cargo, and it’s assumed that Knight fell when he lost his balance giving further directions. The ship was about 60 feet deep, and Knight fell from the upper deck to the bottom.

More than 200 foreign J-1 students took to the streets protesting the working conditions at the Hershey Chocolate factory.

The protesting workers had come to Hershey from countries in Europe and Asia looking to experience a piece of American life while performing a summer job for the iconic chocolate company, reports the Lebanon Daily News.

Instead, the foreign students say they were exploited and forced to work a factory job that offered little time or money to experience the American dream.

Workplace Deaths: OSHA Investigates Longshoreman Death

Fifty-four-year old Charles DiRago was killed over the weekend while working at the Packer Avenue Marine Terminal in South Philadelphia. The longshoreman death appears to be an accident and it is currently being investigated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Workplace deaths have been rare at the Philly port, reports The Philadelphia Inquirer. An official from Packer Avenue Marine Terminal said that he could not remember the last time there was a fatal accident at the port except to say that it was "years and years and years ago."

Did Penn Mutual Life Laid Off Workers Sign Valid ADEA Waiver?

During the economic downturn, many employees are being laid off. In the layoff process, employees may be asked to sign a bunch of documents including a severance agreement. These documents can be confusing to even trained lawyers, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if many employees are not too sure what they are signing.

At least that’s the claim a group of laid off older workers in Pennsylvania are making in their age discrimination lawsuit against The Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company. The workers wanted to sue their former employer for age discrimination after being laid off, but apparently were precluded from doing so due to the fact that they signed an ADEA waiver in their severance agreement.

McKinsey Lawsuit: Jewish Discrimination of Non-Jew

Philadelphia McKinsey & Co. employees better watch out -- their colleagues in New York are not playing so nice. In the recent McKinsey lawsuit, executive assistant Ciro Rosselli claims that the consulting giant engaged in religious discrimination against him for wearing a yarmulke to work.

The interesting twist in this Jewish discrimination case? Rosselli is not Jewish.

Twenty-nine year old Rosselli is a man on a mission. A mission to find the truth. Shortly before starting his job at McKinsey in 2007, Rosselli began practicing a spiritual philosophy called theosophy, a practice devoted to finding truth in all religions, reports The New York Times.

Alcoa Settles Race Discrimination Lawsuit for $540,000

Alcoa was sued by black and Hispanic employees, as well as female employees, for discrimination at its Lancaster plant. The Alcoa lawsuit just ended in a settlement with the federal government, and the race discrimination lawsuit will cost the aluminum maker over half a million dollars. However, the company will avoid any admission of wrongdoing per the terms of the settlement.

According to the Pittsburgh Business Times, Alcoa was accused of discriminating against minority and female employees, denying them job opportunities at the company’s Lancaster plant. The lawsuit was brought by the federal Department of Labor after the agency noticed discrepancies in the company’s hiring practices. The details of the discrepancies were not revealed.

Jersey Shore Employment: Hiring Foreign Workers

In what seems like a more than fair trade in Jersey shore employment, MTV sent Snooki, the Situation, Sweetheart, and JWoww to Italy, and in exchange, Jersey shore employers are hiring foreign workers to meet their staffing needs.

According to the Philadelphia Daily News, thousands of international collegians flock to the Jersey shore every summer under the State Department's J-1 visa program to work a variety of summer jobs like lifeguarding, operating rides at amusement parks, and serving patrons at restaurants and hotels.

Gay marriage benefits are surprisingly being played out in Philadelphia courts as the parents of a deceased Cozen O'Connor partner are vying with the partner's lesbian spouse over the firm's employee death benefits.

According to the Philadelphia Daily News, Sarah Ellyn Farley was a partner in Cozen O'Connor's Chicago office. When she died she left behind a share in the partner's profit sharing plan valued at $40,820. However, Farley did not properly designate a beneficiary for the benefits and the firm had to file a complaint in a Philadelphia federal court to determine whether Farley's parents or her lesbian partner, Jennifer Tobits, is entitled to the benefits.

Military Discrimination and USERRA Law

Most of you know that you cannot discriminate against someone due to their race, sex, or disability. But did you also know that you cannot engage in military discrimination -- that under the federal USERRA law, employers cannot use someone's military service against them when making employment decisions?

John Murphy, an Air Force reservist, is suing Radnor Township claiming that the township engaged in military discrimination. Murphy says that he was not given a second interview for the job of township manager due to his obligations in the Air Force Reserve.