Philadelphia Employment Law News

September 2012 Archives

Unisys, Insight Sued for Alleged Discrimination, Harassment

With Google and its mantra of "do no evil," the public may have a rosy view of tech companies as being above labor disputes and employee complaints. They're getting free meals and foosball, so what can they be complaining about?

However, companies are companies and people are people. Because of that, there's bound to be problems -- the most recent being a computer technician for Unisys Corp. and Insight Enterprises who claims she was harassed by her co-workers because of her race, according to Courthouse News Service. The African American victim claims that co-workers made slave jokes, gave her shackles, and insinuated that the supervisor was her master.

These claims sound like the makings of a hostile work environment.

Limerick Nuclear Plant Operator Fails Drug Test, Loses License

It's possible that random drug tests at work are more palatable now that professional athletes are consistently tested. Maybe you feel a little better about being checked after finding out that Lance Armstrong has been hounded for years and years after his multiple tour wins.

Like Armstrong, who was formally charged after all those years, an operator in the reactor control room of the nuclear plant in Limerick, Roger Devlin, was found to be under the influence of alcohol after a random drug test in July, according to the local Journal Record News Service. The test, given by Exelon Nuclear, was followed by a review of Devlin's activities during the day, which found no errors. Still, he was promptly removed from his duties, and a request was sent to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for his operator's license to be revoked.

So can your boss make you take an on-the-job drug test as well?

'Snitches' Roughed Up After Whistleblowing: Workplace Retaliation?

Just like in the mob movies, nobody likes a stool pigeon. In more modern parlance, nobody likes a snitch. This is certainly something that Philadelphia knows plenty about, a good example being the case of a man who would not give up the identity of the people that shot him.

Now there are reports that this "no snitching" culture has expanded from the streets to the workplace. In the last year, there have been more than 1.2 million Americans that were physically assaulted by a coworker, according to Forbes. Many of these attacks were based on retaliation for coworkers blowing the whistle on their company. Almost 1/3 of all people that came forward to report bad behavior or unsafe policies were victimized by physical harm.

But is this the same thing as retaliation? Not quite.

Bank of America Employee Sues Over Alleged ADA Violations

One of the mergers resulting from the economic downturn was Bank of America's acquisition of Merrill Lynch. After the merger, Daniel Herrmann of Pittsburgh, a man with disabilities in walking and typing, was allegedly told that accommodating him "wouldn't be fair to people with two hands" and that "Bank of America doesn't have ADA rules," according to Courthouse News Service. Herrman sued.

Herrmann claims that while he was with Merrill Lynch, he was given a special keyboard and extra time to complete typing tasks, according to his lawsuit. But once Bank of America took over, his keyboard was allegedly removed and he was no longer given time accommodations. He was then fired from his position, ostensibly for being one and two minutes late back from his lunch break.

What accommodations are required for disabled employees?

NHL Locked Players Out: No Flyers Without a Contract

Well, the Chicago teachers went back to work after a little more than a week of striking. However, it's not looking so good for the NHL Players Association as they enter the fourth day of a lockout. At least the two sides have begun negotiations, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman locked out players from practicing because the collective bargaining agreement expired over the weekend, according to the NHL's website. Without the ability to play in the United States, many hockey stars are taking out insurance policies and signing contracts with European teams to continue playing, according to the Inquirer. The insurance is to cover their team in the case the lockout ends and the player cannot start because of an injury.

What happens to those who signed with European teams when the lockout ends? Will they be breaching their NHL contracts?

Can You Get Time Off for Religious Holidays?

Of course you get time off for Christmas because it's a designated federal holiday. But what if your religion has holy days that don't coincide with federal or state holidays?

Currently, we are in the time of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, two Jewish holidays for which many faithful take time off from work.

Do these followers just have benevolent bosses, or are employers required to allow workers to take time off for religious holidays?

Kellogg Lawsuit Alleges Racial Discrimination in Worker's Firing

The Kellogg Company makes many scrumptious cereals and other foods. Now it is under scrutiny for allegedly discriminating against a warehouse worker in a Philadelphia distribution center.

Brandon Harrell claims the company would not honor his work-related restrictions after a work-related knee injury because of his race, according to The Pennsylvania Record. He reported the treatment he received to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and a month later he was fired. Harrell claims that he was a victim of discrimination, and that when he reported it, he was fired in retaliation.

Kellogg tried to dismiss his case based on an agreement to arbitrate, but the company's motion failed because the agreement did not cover claims of discrimination, according to the Record. Now that the case is moving forward, will Harrell be successful?

Do Employers Have to Provide Health, Retirement Benefits?

So you have your job and the main benefit is that you are getting paid. But is that the only benefit that you are getting? Sure, you are improving your mind and sharpening your skills, but we're talking about the other benefits, ones that are covered by a federal law called ERISA.

Not all jobs come with added benefits, especially when you are working as an independent contractor. When you're contracting, you're on your own to get things like health insurance, retirement funds, and snacks. However, when you are an employee your company might offer you these great things.

But are employers required to offer you benefits?

OSHA and You: Best Buddies in the Philadelphia Workplace

OSHA: It's a dirty word to some and heaven-sent to others. Short for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA is the agency that regulates employers to ensure that workplaces are safe for employees.

OSHA regulations reach every part of the workplace and even encompass some consumer products. You're sure to have seen "OSHA-approved" labels on any number of products at your local hardware store.

But what do you do if you think these regulations are being violated and your workplace is unsafe? This is where your buddy OSHA comes into play.

This Lawsuit Isn't Spam: Hormel Accused of Sex Discrimination

It's Spam, lovely Spam Spam Spam. And we're not talking about annoying emails asking you to buy Viagra. Instead, it's Hormel Food Sales, maker of the Spam food product, that is in the news.

It seems that Hormel has been accused of gender discrimination by one of its former administrative assistants. Deborah Hoss claims Hormel has segregated women into administrative assistant/support staff roles while placing men into management positions, Courthouse News Service reports.

Hoss was allegedly fired in retaliation for bringing the discrimination to light, and for an email she sent to other women explaining the discriminatory treatment, according to Courthouse News. Are these claims enough to support a gender discrimination lawsuit?

Apria Healthcare Sued for Unpaid Wages; FLSA

It always seems like employers are trying to get a little more productivity out of employees. Sometimes this desire presses up against the boundaries of labor laws by asking employees to stay a little longer than their shift, but only paying for the 40 hours that they were scheduled to work.

Apria Healthcare was recently accused of doing this to its employees and violating the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"). An employee, Connie Titchenell, claimed that Apria would require her to work past her 10-15 extra hours a week without pay in order to meet her supervisors' productivity demands, according to The Pennsylvania Record. Now, the court hearing the case has allowed the suit to become a class action based on other employees having the same claims as Titchenell.

Will this case be successful?