Philadelphia Employment Law News

August 2012 Archives

Philly Law Firm Harvey Pennington Sued for ERISA Violations

If you're lucky enough to have a salaried position with benefits and everything, you probably gladly joined your company's 401(k) or other type of retirement program because they will match your contribution. But what happens when the company falls behind on matching your contribution?

Well, if the company fails to place contributions into the retirement plan, it can be sued by an employee or by the U.S. Department of Labor itself.

This has happened to Philadelphia law firm Harvey Pennington, which was supposed to be putting its employees' contributions into 401(k) plans. Instead, the firm was allegedly withholding the money and not paying into the plan or paying the plan late without interest, according to The Pennsylvania Record.

What requirement has the firm allegedly breached under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (commonly called "ERISA")?

Video Job Interviews: A New Way to Unlawfully Discriminate?

There's a new way to hire people these days that could help match the right people with the right jobs -- or just open the door to a new way to get around anti-discrimination laws. That's the fun question lawyers like to bring up with new technology: "It's great, but how are people's rights affected?"

The new technology here is a way to send video answers to interview questions the same way you send an email. HireVue, one of the top companies providing this service, created a program that will give a job applicant a list of questions that they then video-record themselves answering, according to Forbes.

The idea is that recruiters and HR staff will be able to better review multiple applicants without spending as much time and money on traditional in-person interviews, according to Forbes. But can the tool be used for discriminatory purposes, such as asking illegal interview questions?

STD Diagnosis an Employment Contract Breach In This Job?

Whatever your opinion of the porn industry itself, you probably have some feeling about who you think is out there working in it. Those feelings might be that it's likely that porn stars all have sexually transmitted diseases ("STDs") and are not the nicest of folks.

It is the stated policy of the porn industry that workers have a clean bill of health before shooting for a film. However, Mr. Marcus, an 18-year veteran of the porn industry, altered his test results and hid other results from employers after contracting and being treated for syphilis, according to AVN. Marcus' admission comes after the porn industry voluntarily shut down after a syphilis outbreak among a handful of performers, according to The Associated Press.

It seems as though Mr. Marcus breached his employment contract. What can happen if you breach yours?

Phoenixville's Danco Precision Cited for OSHA Violations

If you go to Home Depot, everything seems to be tagged with those letters "OSHA." It usually says that OSHA approved it for something. Of course, if you're at the Home Depot, you probably know exactly what those letters mean: OSHA is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and it makes sure that jobsites and workplaces are kept safe for workers.

Well, OSHA has dinged Danco Precision Inc. to the tune of $55,000 for 13 serious safety violations, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. The citations were for stamping and cutting machines used to make dies (molds) that did not have proper safety guards. The shop also failed to install fall-protection barriers and provide hand tools to clear metal scraps.

What does OSHA require of employers?

Extreme Sexual Harassment Is Still Out There: What You Can Do

As we progress into the 21st century we tend to think that everything is progressing along with time. However, we are occasionally reminded that we have not yet met this ideal.

One extreme example of this is a boss in the Washington, D.C., area who has been accused of sexually harassing female employees in a very extreme manner. Three women have sued UGL Services Limited, a Portland, Maine-based staffing company, for its failure to act after receiving their complaints of sexual harassment, according to Courthouse News Service.

The women reported their supervisor, Felix Miranda, because he allegedly exposed himself and sexually assaulted the women continuously between 2010 and 2011. The most extreme accusation is that Miranda locked one of the women in a closet with him and forced her to watch his homemade pornography while he grabbed her breast and masturbated, according to Courthouse News.

With this or any type of harassment, a victim can pursue several courses of action.

Philadelphia Prosecutors Working Two Jobs to Cover Bills

Aren't lawyers supposed to be the fancy ones with all the money and the hot cars (after rap/rock stars anyway)? Plenty of recent articles suggest the opposite, showing that new law graduates are barely finding jobs, let alone making bank.

Even Philadelphia prosecutors are facing the difficulties of working in a public-sector job after encumbering themselves with debt from law school. It's not just rookie lawyers who are having trouble, either. Carlos Vega, the prosecutor who convicted "Kensington Strangler" Antonio Rodriguez, has a second job at UPS as a supervisor, according to the Philadelphia Daily News.

So is it legal for a city employee to have a second job in the private sector?

Terry Ruggles Retiring; Are You Thinking of Doing the Same?

When you reach your 60s, the thought of retirement enters your mind. The idea of being able to spend time with grandkids, volunteering, or maybe just cutting down on the amount of work your doing sounds good to you.

Terry Ruggles of NBC10 has made the decision to slow down, or at least change direction, at the end of this year, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Ruggles has been a fixture at NBC10 for the past 40 years in the roles of news anchor, reporter, and weather man.

As an employee you need to make decisions about Social Security when you start thinking about retiring.

Nature Conservancy Manager Claims Fired for Whistleblowing

What do you do if you know that your business or your supervisor is breaking the law by committing fraud against the company or its customers? Do you join in? What if you want to report the activities to the boss or to the authorities, will you lose your job?

A former manager at the Cape May, New Jersey Nature Conservancy office, Les Frie, claims that he was fired for reporting the theft of company funds by an office director, according to Courthouse News Service. Frie claims that he was singled out by the new office director because he had blown the whistle on the previous director, according to the complaint. He says that after reporting the retaliation from the new director, that he was further retaliated against by being put on probation at work and eventually fired.

Sexual Harassment, Champagne Style?

Sexual harassment takes many forms, all of which are offensive in a different manner. There could be verbal harassment through the constant mention of sex or unrelenting come-ons. There could be written harassment by sending emails or writing notes and leaving sexual images at a coworker's desk. Then there is the worst, which is the physical harassment by inappropriate touching or worse.

In Elizabeth, New Jersey, Stanley Champagne is accused of choosing to take his harassment to the "worse" level of physical harassment by holding his coworker Katiria Velez by her sweatshirt and masturbating on her, according to Courthouse News Service. This event was preceded by an alleged offer by Champagne to provide $50 to Velez so that he could perform oral sex on her.

Internal Affairs, Indeed; Policewoman Harassed for Years by Boss

Usually it is the Internal Affairs crew that investigates wrongdoing within a police force, not causes it. They're the ones that are supposed to be investigating whether cops are embezzling funds or selling confiscated drugs on the street.

Recently, Philadelphia Police Internal Affairs Bureau Staff Inspector Jerrold Bates was accused by aide Keisha Johnson of forcing her into a sexual relationship in order to keep her job, according to the Philadelphia Daily News. The harassment allegedly started in 2008 when Bates slipped his hands under Johnson's shirt during a one on one meeting in his office.

Walmart Distribution Center Sued for On-The-Job Hand Injury

When you work with your hands there's always a chance of injury. But you wouldn't expect a simple scrape or cut to take you away from your job for weeks on end, would you? If you don't know where the materials you're handling come from, it just might.

This is what Stephan Stewart claims happened to him. While working at the Walmart Distribution center in Tobyhanna, Pennsylvania for Walmart contractor Rehring Penn Logistics, Stewart cut his hand while cleaning pallets, according to The Pennsylvania Record. Stewart claims that the cut resulted in numerous surgical procedures that included being put into a medically induced coma.

Stewart is suing Walmart for negligence in keeping the area safe and for negligent training of employees, isn't this covered by OSHA?

Christie Signs Teacher Tenure Bill with Teachers' Union Attending

Education reform has been on the lips of many politicians for many years. It always seems to be a fight between the suits and the teachers unions. This discussion has been going on loudly in New Jersey for some time.

Now, Governor Chris Christie has signed new legislation that changes how a teach acquires tenure in New Jersey, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. The law is the result of work between the teachers' union and Gov. Christie that led to compromise between the two parties, but is only a facet of the Governor's plan to overhaul New Jersey's education system.

What if union members thought that their leaders weren't properly representing them?

Have an Interview? Check Out FindLaw's Guide to Prepare

The interview, it's that part of getting a job that means you have made it past the first round. It's your time to shine in front of the employer and show them the best parts about you.

What many people don't know is that there are legal rights that you have even when you're interviewing. Nor do they know that certain actions taken during an interview could have repercussions on their legal rights throughout their employment. So make sure you're ready for that next interview.

dELiA*S Settles Pregnancy Discrimination Suit with $75k Payout

Working at the mall is tough enough. You have the people who are there to just walk on through and then there are the folks that want you to wait on them hand and foot. Then there’s dELiA*S, that bastion of accessories that is frequented by young girls trying to figure out what growing up is all about.

Is this why they had some trouble with a pregnancy discrimination suit?

In 2011, two women filed a discrimination lawsuit against the store in the Lehigh Valley Mall in Whitehall. They claimed that they were discriminated against through repeated questioning and harassment based on their pregnancies, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). One woman was allegedly fired in retaliation for her complaints about the discrimination and the other was allegedly forced to take early maternity leave because of the harassment.

Unemployment Up Again: Do You Need to File for Benefits?

This economy has been a drain on everyone. Well, maybe it's been a drain on only 99% of people, but a drain nonetheless. You've probably felt the hurt in one way or another, the loss of co-workers, no raise, or you've lost a job altogether.

The most recent unemployment application numbers were released recently showing that weekly applications increased by 8,000 to a seasonally adjusted 365,000, reports the Associated Press. The four-week average actually fell to a mark lower than it has been since the end of March.

These numbers are supposed to mean that the country is overall gaining jobs and lowering unemployment, but what if you're one of the folks that needs to apply for benefits?

Taking Old Co-Workers to Your New Job? Watch Out for Trade Secrets

When you work at a place for a while you form a bond with your co-workers. You know who you like to get a drink with after work and you know who gets work done. Then when you change jobs, you want to bring those folks with you because you know that they would help the new company with their skills.

A similar situation occurred with former Teva Pharmaceuticals employee Kevin Middleton who now works for Genzyme Corporation, a competing drug company. After leaving Teva to go to Genzyme, Middleton convinced other Teva employees to resign and join him at Genzyme, according to The Pennsylvania Record. Teva claims that this breaches Middleton's separation agreement and is a theft of its trade secrets.

How can you avoid being accused of stealing trade secrets?