Philadelphia Employment Law News

April 2012 Archives

Sexual Harassment Allegations Amongst Top Cops

There's trouble brewing amongst the higher-ups in the Philadelphia Police Department, reports the Philadelphia Daily News. Captain Debra Frazier has just filed a lawsuit against her superior officer, Deputy Commissioner William Blackburn. The lawsuit centers around three years of sexual harassment and retaliation after she rebuffed him. There are also cursory mentions of racial and religious discrimination as well.

Frazier, who is an African-American female and a Muslim, allegedly caught Blackburn's eye back in 2008. Among the allegations are that he sent her text messages continuously for years, demanded sex or female companionship for favorable treatment, ogled her at the gym, stalked her, and even made a reference to running her over with his car.

Background Check Discrimination: EEOC Issues New 'Guidelines'

We previously reported on Pepsico's settlement with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for $3.1 million. The suit was brought because Pepsi used background checks in the hiring process, which had a disparate impact on minority candidates. In addition to considering arrests as well as convictions, Pepsi was using background checks, regardless of the importance of the job.

The EEOC only wants background checks done when the applicant's background is "job-related and of business necessity." Pepsi capitulated, cut a check, and changed their internal policies.

Philly School District Revamp Plan: Less Admin, More Compromises

The Philadelphia School District has a plan to save the schools: kill the district.

That might be a slight overstatement, but not by much. According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, the plan would scrap most of the administration of the school district and establish decentralized "achievement networks" which would be run by performance-based contracts. Forty schools would be shuttered due to under-capacity by next year and 64 by 2017. More and more students would be relocated to charter schools. This may just be the most drastic overhaul of a U.S. school system in history.

Though the new plan will cost countless jobs, the man with the plan, Chief Recovery Officer, Thomas Knudsen, thinks its the only way to survive. Teachers' Union President Jerry Jordan calls it a ""cynical, right-wing, market-driven" blueprint.

Man Can Sue for Enduring Anti-Semitism Even if Not Jewish

Myron Cowher, a German-Irish Lutheran, a former truck driver for Carson & Roberts Site Construction & Engineering in Lafayette, New Jersey, can now sue them, the appeals court ruled earlier this week.

Cowher, despite not being Jewish, was harassed for over a year for being Jewish at his former worksite, reports His supervisors would make statements like, "Only a Jew would argue over his hours," along with other far more offensive jokes. Cowher eventually caught them on tape.

Paterno's Estate Collects Millions, Won't Let Penn Rename Field

Joe Paterno, the late coach who was fired for "failure of leadership" after his assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky, was accused of molesting children under Paterno's watch, finally got the rest of his pay, reports NBC 10 Philadelphia. Paterno was fired via telephone at the height of the Sandusky scandal after the University refused to allow him to retire. He died a few months later.

Now, it seems Penn State has decided to honor his contract and attempt to honor his memory. The school has agreed to fulfill his contractual obligations in full, as if he had retired at the end of the 2011 season instead of being terminated midway through, reports NBC. This means his estate will receive estimated benefits valued at somewhere between $5.5 and $6.7 million.

Bogota, NJ's First Lesbian Cop Being Targeted?

The department claims that their efforts to fire her are due to two incidents that were a gross dereliction of duty and a failed psychological exam, reports the New York Daily News. Officer Regina Tasca claims that their attemts to fire her are because she is a lesbian. Either way, things are about to get very ugly in Bogota, New Jersey.

Regina Tasca has been on the force for eleven years, and has allegedly been harassed over her sexuality for just as long.

The Bogota Police Department claims that she is unstable and twice failed to come to the aid of a fellow police officer, and once interfered with an arrest.

Best Buy's Ex-CEO's Affair With Female Subordinate: No Big Deal?

Best Buy's stock has plummeted by more than half their value since April 2006 and lost 27% of their value in the last year. So when former CEO Brian Dunn resigned earlier this week, it didn't seem to be that much of a shock. Most of us assumed it was because of his performance as a CEO.

Apparently, it had more to do with his performance as a man. Dunn was allegedly having an affair with an unidentified 29-year-old employee of the company's "leadership institute," reports the New York Daily News.

And yet, your first thought is probably, who cares? Well, besides Best Buy, probably no one. But much like Bobby Petrino's firing, there is a good reason for the freak out: lawsuits.

City of Philadelphia Prison Coughs Up $48,600 to Female Officer

There is good news for one female corrections officer and bad news for another, reports the Philadelphia Human Resources Commission. Two women had their claims against the City of Philadelphia heard recently. Both were guards at the city prison and both claimed that they were denied promotions based on their gender.

It is unclear what the difference in their cases was, but Jill Toomer prevailed on her sex discrimination while losing on her race discrimination claim. Renee Johnson’s similar claims were denied.

Erroneous Background Checks Cost Jobs, Violate Law?

When your employer checks your background, what will they find? For one man, found he was convicted of rape. Strangely, he was four at the time. The background check had confused Samuel M. Jackson, the applicant, with Samuel L. Jackson, the incarcerated rapist (not to be confused with the greatest actor of all time,) reports the Los Angeles Times.

Background checks are becoming increasingly important since September 2011, with 93% of employers conducting background checks on some employees and 73% checking all employees. The problem of inaccuracy is becoming more widespread, as there are no licenses or documentation required to start a background check company. All that is required is a computer, internet access, and customers, writes the Times.

AutoZone Settles Lawsuit; Trains Managers on Religious Tolerance

AutoZone Inc., which maintains dozens of auto parts stores in and around the Philadelphia area, settled a lawsuit with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently. According to the EEOC, AutoZone will pay $75,000 plus attorney’s fees to settle the lawsuit, after Judge William Young ruled that AutoZone had indeed failed to accommodate employee Frank Mahoney Burroughs’ religious needs once he converted to the Sikh religion.

The EEOC often takes legal action against employers when they suspect an employer of unlawful discrimination against an employee.

Clergy Sex Abuse: Nun Fired For Complaint Over Porn

Today, in the ongoing Clergy Sex Abuse criminal trial, Sister Joan Scary, a nun that previously worked at St. Gabriel's in Montgomery County, testified that she was fired after complaining to church officials about one of the priests was receiving porn at the church. The priest had previously been convicted of using the mail to purchase child porn in 1986 and was transferred to St. Gabriel's after the case was resolved, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer.

As lawyers, when the words porn, complain, and fired are uttered in a sentence, the words sue, sexual harassment, and retaliation enter our minds. It truly is an immediate association, much like the mention of Christmas to a child brings forth happy images of a fat man in a red suit and lots of toys.

Do Background Checks on Applicants Constitute Discrimination?

Pepsi Beverages settled a lawsuit with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently for $3.1 million, reports Business Management Daily. The crux of the lawsuit was a claim that Pepsi discriminated against minorities because they did background checks on potential employees.

The claims are interesting. The EEOC alleged that Pepsi's background checks and hiring decisions highlighted previous arrests, not convictions, as a reason for not hiring applicants. This apparently had a disparate impact on minority candidates, namely 300 black applicants.

Push to Prohibit Discrimination Against LGBT Employees

You are not allowed to fire someone because they are black. Or because they are old. But did you know that you can fire someone because you suspect them of being gay? That's the case in almost 30 states in this county, Pennsylvania included, reports GPhilly. The fight for equality amongst those with differing sexual preferences and gender identities is expanding to employment opportunities.

This issue has cropped up before. President Obama, way back in 2008 during his campaign, promised to make a nondiscrimination policy for federal employees and contractors. He has yet to do so, but there is a letter of support circulating Congress for such an Executive Order to be passed. It has so far been signed by about half of the Democratic Caucus.

Polling by the Human Rights Campaign indicate that 73% of likely voters in the upcoming election would support such an order.

To Go Gray or Not to Go Gray?

How many women do you know color their hair? According to The Associated Press, 95% or more of women do just that. The decision affects more than just your personal life. In youth-oriented industries and image-conscious professions, the color of your hair can make the difference between stalling at a mid-level job and making it to the top.

It might even make the difference in getting a job when interviewing.

Though fashion trends are leading some celebrities, like Kelly Osborne and Lady Gaga, to go gray, it is still probably not advisable for the average person. Fair or not, gray is associated with “old” for women. Men can sometimes pull off gray, like George Clooney, but for the general public seeking jobs in industries like fashion, technology, or entertainment, gray is probably passé.