Category: Discrimination

How Do Employers Defend Discrimination Claims?

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There are federal and state laws in place that protect employees from discrimination and harassment. Companies who face discrimination suits can defend against the claims if they have taken all the reasonable steps needed to prevent employees from committing acts of discrimination or harassment. However, a plaintiff in a recent court case, Allay (UK) Ltd v Gehlen, challenged an employer using that defense and succeeded. Of course, this ruling is not precedential here in the US, but it has value to highlight how courts may be starting to alter their views on workplace discrimination.

In the United Kingdom, an employee who was fired for poor performance informed their employer that they experienced workplace harassment. The employer initiated an investigation and determined that a colleague had made racist remarks. The discrimination claim was investigated further, and the tribunal learned that two managers knew about the comments but did not take action.

It was found that the managers and employees had been provided with discrimination training, but the training program was outdated. Since the employer had failed to update their training, the Employment Appeal Tribunal decided that the company did not take all of the reasonable steps that could have prevented the harassment. The employer’s appeal was therefore dismissed.

When are Employers Liable for Workplace Harassment?

Under the Equality Act 2010, an employer has accountability for other people’s actions in workplaces, which is called vicarious liability. Section 109 of the Equality Act specifies that anything that an employee does in their course of their employment must be looked at as also done by the employer. Even when the employer is unaware of the discrimination, they can still be held liable. This also extends to other people that the employer brings in, such as consultants, company-sponsored events, and unwelcome posts on work-related social media platforms.

Can My Employer Defend Against My Discrimination Claim?

Even though employers can be held vicariously liable in workplace discrimination suits, they have the option of trying to show that they took reasonable steps to prevent the discrimination. Employers that have strong anti-discrimination procedures and policies that are kept in practice may be able to defend their interests. They may also need to show that staff members have been trained on preventing and addressing discrimination and that they take all discrimination allegations seriously.

How Do State Anti-Discrimination Laws Apply?

In Pennsylvania, employees are also protected by state and federal laws. The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act protects employees by making it illegal for employers to discriminate based on:

  • Race
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • Color
  • National origin
  • Age

There are other protected categories as well. Workplace discrimination claims can be filed through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which is a federal agency, or the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC), the state administrative agency. These two cooperate with claim processing, so it is not necessary to file with both; you can also dual-file with both. Deciding which agency is best to file the initial claim is something an attorney can help with.

To conform with the laws, the claims must be filed within 180 days after the alleged discrimination took place. There may be exceptions to that deadline, so it is important to understand the facts before filing. A qualified employment lawyer can help with the claim filing process, as well as any challenges that the employer might make.

Philadelphia Employment Lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. Work Tirelessly to Protect Employees Against Workplace Discrimination

If you believe you were harassed or discriminated against at work, you may have a legal claim. A Philadelphia employment lawyer at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. can help you with your discrimination or harassment case. Complete our online form or call us at 215-574-0600 for an initial consultation. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

What is Political Workplace Discrimination?

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A recent social media post has sparked controversy online. An alleged posting stated that a company is seeking job applicants that are not liberal. The business is looking for someone who is logical and reasonable and went on to say that liberals do not represent what the company is looking for. Whether or not this post is legitimate or fake, it does raise an important question; can an employer refuse to hire or fire someone based on their political beliefs? In some instances, an employee does have legal protections.

It is common today to see political tensions online, at home, or even in the workplace. Political conversations may lead to heated debates, and an employee may feel as though they are subject to termination in the workplace for their political beliefs. The extent of protection against political discrimination depends on if the employer is a private or public entity.

Are There Federal Laws Against Political Discrimination?

As of now, there are no federal laws that protect workers from political discrimination since political views do not belong to a protected class. Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employers are prohibited to discriminate employees based on their race, sex or gender, age, national origin, disability, or another protected characteristic. Political views do not fall within a protected class, but it may be connected to one. For example, if an African American employee goes to a Black Lives Matter movement and they are fired, they may argue that they were wrongfully terminated because they belong to a protected class. Additionally, an at-will employer may fire a worker at any time without notice. In this case, an employee may not even be aware of the reason for their termination.

What if It is a Private Business?

Many workers may wonder whether political discrimination violates First Amendment rights. The First Amendment allows freedom of speech and protects political and religious views, but only from government action. Some employees in the public sector may argue that their First Amendment rights were violated; however, employees who work for private employers are likely not eligible to make this argument.

Many states and private employers protect their employees’ political activism and views as long as it does not adversely impact the workplace. For example, if a worker is soliciting co-workers or handing out political pamphlets, it may cause division and tension. Employees should also be mindful about social media posts. If the posts violate company policies or raise implications, they may be subject to termination.

What Should I Do if I Have a Discrimination Claim?

Employees should keep in mind that intent and the extent of their political activities will largely impact a claim for discrimination. There must be concrete evidence of discrimination, and this may be difficult to prove. If a worker belongs to the public or private sector, it will greatly affect a claim as well. Since there are many complexities, it is imperative that an employee speaks to an employment lawyer about their legal options. A lawyer will thoroughly evaluate their client’s case and determine the best course of action.

Philadelphia Employment Lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. Protect Workers Against Unlawful Discrimination

Employees have rights in the workplace, and their political views may be protected in some cases. Proving political discrimination can be difficult, but a Philadelphia employment lawyer at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. can help you with your case. Depending on the specifics, a discrimination claim might be valid. Complete our online form or call 215-574-0600 for an initial consultation. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

What are My Rights for Mental Health in the Workplace?

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Mental health discrimination in the workplace is unethical and illegal, and workers with mental illnesses have protection under the law. Despite this, mental health discrimination in the workplace persists. The problem is that this type of discrimination is difficult to prove or even detect. Mental health discrimination in the workplace will generally take one of three forms:

  • Discriminatory actions, such as:
    • Being excluded from travel or other events because of phobias
    • Not being given assignments that could aggravate anxiety
    • Being demoted or overlooked for a promotion due to mental illness
    • Being fired for using company time for doctor visits, therapy appointments, hospital stays, or doctor-advised time off
    • Being demoted for taking time off to care for a family member with a mental illness
  • Harassment, such as:
    • Being mocked by co-workers or superiors, whether by oral, written, or physical means, such as gestures that relate to the mental illness
    • Overhearing derogatory terms or names
  • Retaliation can happen when a worker with mental illness reports the discrimination or takes action to end the discrimination. It could take the form of:
    • Exclusion from meetings or projects after reporting the discrimination to Human Resources
    • Verbal harassment or bad performance reviews by a superior related to the discrimination complaint
    • Not receiving a promotion or raise, or given a different job or title after a discrimination complaint
    • Being moved to a different location in the department after making a complaint

What are My Rights Regarding Mental Health in the Workplace?

Federal and state laws protect workers with mental illnesses or who take care of family members with mental illnesses. These laws include the following:

  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): This Act protects workers with physical or mental disabilities in companies with 15 or more employees. The ADA states that employers cannot treat someone with a mental illness differently from others in the same job. Specifically, an employer should not use a mental health diagnosis in decisions related to training, promotion, transfers, discipline, lay-off, termination, and pay.
  • Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA): Among other things, the FLSA makes it unlawful for an employer to pay a person with a mental illness less than a person without a mental illness performing the same job duties. The Department of Labor has mental health toolkits to help employers comply with federal labor laws related to mental health in the workplace.
  • Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC): This federal agency enforces fair workplace practices, including those for mentally ill workers. Employees can report mental health discrimination, unfair labor practices, and related workplace issues to the EEOC to take their case to the federal level.

Must Employers Comply with Reasonable Accommodations?

Both the ADA and the EEOC allow employees to ask for reasonable accommodations at work to address their mental illness. It requires an employer to comply with the requests as long as they do not result in business hardship or violations. Reasonable accommodation requests may include having a support dog at work, working from home, being placed in a quiet area, or being allowed to wear headphones to drown out noise.

Philadelphia Employment Lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. Advocate for Victims of Mental Health Discrimination

Discrimination against employees with mental illness is illegal. Employees who care for family members with a mental illness also have rights under the law. If you feel your rights have been violated, contact the Philadelphia employment lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. We help employees with mental illnesses obtain fair and just compensation under the law when they are victims of discrimination in the workplace. For an initial consultation, contact us online or call us at 215-574-0600. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

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What are the Current 2021 Workplace Litigation Trends? 

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Workplace Litigation Trends

With 2021 well underway, experts and forecasters are busy predicting what the year will bring in terms of political changes, economics, and public arenas, like workplaces. Naturally, the pandemic has impacted every facet of life. This and other factors are currently influencing current 2021 workplace litigation trends.

How has COVID-19 Affected Workplace Litigation?

Industries will be affected differently as the pandemic continues. Some companies have faced claims that they violated COVID-19 workplace safety regulations, and there have been cases with employers attempting to retaliate against employees for speaking out about violations. Other businesses have had legal issues pertaining to staff, including rehiring furloughed workers, layoffs, and retaining talent.

Leave and remote work conflicts are also becoming common issues. Employers must be careful when choosing who can return to work, as this could lead to discrimination claims. It is also important to keep up with government safety recommendations and to communicate these to all employees in a timely fashion. Companies that provide the vaccine to employees can use this to retain and attract talent; however, requiring employees to show proof of vaccination before returning to work could lead to litigation.

Will Wage and Hour Litigation Increase?

The standard 40-hour work week could soon become a thing of the past, as companies have become more flexible about working hours. Gartner’s Reimagine HR Employee Survey showed companies that provide flexible hours and working locations saw 55 percent of high-performance rates. It is thought that more employers will be measuring employee productivity by actual output instead of the number of hours and locale.

With so many people working from home, having reduced hours, and being furloughed, it is not surprising that worker misclassification and timekeeping errors have been trending upward. It is more difficult to record working hours when employees are at home. One report claims that the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) will be prioritizing wage theft enforcement; there has also been minimum wage increases for 25 states this year. There are other regulatory changes and key state initiatives as well.

How Do Government Regulations Factor in?

Another study showed that government agencies, including the DOL, Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), brought fewer legal actions in 2020 when compared to previous years. Nevertheless, the EEOC recovered $535.4 million last year for alleged discrimination victims. It is thought that the new presidential administration is likely to focus on administering employment litigation. There could be more regulation of businesses, assertive enforcement of workplace laws, and a possible expansion of workers’ rights.

What Other Trends are Significant?

As workplace environments evolve, it is important to note other changes that may be on the way. The pandemic has provided business leadership with more visibility into their employees’ personal lives, helping companies understand how home lives impact work performance. Employees who feel that their companies support their personal lives also perform better. As an example, if a worker with a seriously ill child was allowed to work remotely until further notice, they might perform better than if they had to report to an office.

Employee monitoring is another trend to watch. Over 25 percent of companies surveyed had invested in new technology to track and monitor their employees through passive means. Meanwhile, respondents admitted that they were not sure of the best ways to protect employee privacy while using the technology. This can erode away at employee trust, especially if the data is not shared with them. This year, there will be new state and local regulations about limiting what employers may track and monitor.

Philadelphia Employment Litigation Defense Lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. Help Clients with Employment Litigation

If your company is facing employment litigation, turn to the skilled Philadelphia employment litigation defense lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. We will protect your best interests and provide skilled legal representation if needed. Complete our online form or call 215-574-0600 for an initial consultation today. Located in Philadelphia, we help clients throughout South Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Equal Pay Lawsuits Filed by Female Professors

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Equal pay is a constant fight for women in the workplace. Despite having similar or better credentials, women are still being paid less than their male counterparts. No matter the profession, gender discrimination happens in all workplaces, especially within those with a high population of older men. Women must work harder to prove themselves and may work their entire lives without being paid fairly in comparison to their male co-workers.

A law professor at the University of Texas School of Law recently filed an Equal Pay Act lawsuit due to the unfair pay she received in relation to her male co-workers. This complaint also alleges sex discrimination and retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This is not the first time that the law professor complained to the university about unfair compensation and sexual discrimination. She speaks out frequently about the pay inequality at the university, despite the school’s verbal negative perceptions of her and her actions.

A Texas judge granted the university’s motion to partially dismiss the law professor’s lawsuit due to a failed causal connection between her pay complaints and receiving the lowest raise of any school faculty member. Her claims are still ongoing.

Ongoing Claims

This is not the first woman professor to bring a lawsuit to court. At least five other equal pay lawsuits have been filed by female professors from various universities since 2016. These lawsuits have been filed due to the way universities determine compensation. Law school deans often have significant say in pay decisions, which can be tainted by gender bias and because many men in the teaching field gain more respect for research and writing, despite their lack of quality and importance in relation to their female co-workers. This increases the dean’s overall opinion of male professors and allows them to raise their salaries.

Gender discrimination and pay gap issues often occur in the workplace. Many situations go unnoticed because women are afraid of the consequences if they mention it to their bosses. The female law professor has been described as poison after she confronted the appropriate parties. Other professors who filed lawsuits also stated that they were removed from important committee assignments and ignored in the workplace. Words and actions like these are why women are afraid to take a stand against pay inequality.

Although there are many obstacles that women face in the workplace, especially when it comes to pay gaps, it is important to fight for equal compensation. Fighting for equal pay is an ongoing battle and requires female workers to stand up for themselves when they feel as though they are being treated unfairly.

Philadelphia Employment Lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. Fight for Equal Compensation in the Workplace

If you feel as though your pay does not match your abilities and that you are not being fairly compensated, contact the Philadelphia employment lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. for help. Our dedicated team understands the pay gap frustration and will work hard to ensure you receive proper pay. Gender discrimination is a serious issue that will only get resolved if we continue to fight for the rights of female workers. Call us today at 215-574-0600 or contact us online. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

What is the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act?

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The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (“PWFA”) was recently passed in the U.S. House of Representatives. The legislation largely follows the guidelines set forth by the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). The PWFA, however, will go a step further in protecting pregnant women in the workplace if it is signed into law. It will also specify exactly what businesses must do to comply. Under the PWFA, anyone who is pregnant qualifies. The law is specific so that employers cannot avoid the issue of pregnancy. It ensures a pregnant worker is covered by the law even if they cannot perform an essential function of their job position, as long as the inability:

  • Is strictly temporary and caused by pregnancy;
  • Could be performed in the near future; and
  • Can be reasonably accommodated.

There is no language about undue hardship laid on the business. A business is not supposed to give preferential treatment to a pregnant woman, but it cannot tell her that her accommodations are unnecessary because they are more costly or time consuming than those provided to other disabled workers. The law simply hopes to clarify what employers must do when a woman requires accommodations during pregnancy alone.

Examples of Reasonable Accommodations Under the PWFA

The PWFA allows for reasonable accommodations that any normal person would see as fair. Some examples include the following:

  • Extra time for bathroom breaks
  • More water breaks
  • Reassignment of tasks requiring heavy lifting
  • A more comfortable chair in which to sit

Because most of these accommodations are simple, the employer and the employee must determine the best course of action. A business cannot reject requests for accommodations, and a pregnant woman cannot expect the business to know precisely what she needs without speaking to a supervisor first.

How are Workers Compensated Under the PWFA?

If a case for discrimination should arise under the PWFA, it would be met with an investigation by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). Even though the EEOC will act as the administrative agency for the law, a lawsuit may be filed against the employer for negligence that could result in a judgment, including non-economic damages, punitive damages, and legal fees.

Pregnant women who experience retaliation or lose their jobs entirely could also sue for back pay if they were terminated, their hours were reduced, they were demoted, or their future earning potential was impacted. Even though women have legal recourse if they experienced discrimination, the law also allows employers to show that they made a good-faith effort to accommodate their employees. Although the law wants to protect pregnant women, it does not allow for unreasonable demands on the part of an employee.

Philadelphia Employment Lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. Assist Pregnant Women Suffering from Discrimination at Work

Speak to the Philadelphia employment lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. when you have questions about your treatment at work, especially when you are pregnant and have possible new protections under the PWFA. Our attorneys are highly experienced in all areas of the law dealing with employer-employee relationships. We create litigation strategies to support our clients’ concerns and goals. Fill out our online contact form or call us at 215-574-0600 today for an initial consultation. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

  Category: Discrimination
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How Can I Prevent Workplace Discrimination?

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Most employers understand that they have an obligation to provide their employees with a discrimination-free workplace. While the laws regarding discrimination may be complex, employers can readily implement important protections to avoid discriminatory practices and meet their obligations. The idea is to treat employees fairly and to provide them with unbiased access to employment and advancement.

It is in everyone’s best interests for workplaces to be free of discrimination. From the employee’s perspective, they can thrive if they are given equal opportunities to succeed at work, learn new skills, and compete for promotions. There is good reason for employers to be proactive in providing a discrimination-free workplace. Those with disabilities can contribute most effectively when provided with reasonable accommodations provided by employers. If a worker requires certain accommodations by an employer, the employer should comply.

Best practices have been developed over time and can be implemented in businesses of all sizes. In general, employment decisions, including hiring, firing, and promoting employees, should be based on objective criteria. Work assignments, access to training and education, and opportunities to compete for a promotion should be provided to employees without any particular group being singled out for differential treatment. This is important to remember during the hiring process. When hiring employees, employers should be sure to avoid using the following language:

  • Gender-specific titles and descriptions;
  • If a pre-employment screening test is to be used, make sure it is administered to all candidates;
  • When interviewing, avoid asking questions that seek information on a protected status, such as age, religion, or disability; and
  • Do not ask if a person is married, pregnant, or intends to start a family.

Workplace Policies Against Discrimination

Be proactive by establishing detailed protocols, including written criteria for hiring applicants and for firing and promoting employees. Write up protocols for how employee performance will be evaluated and follow these written protocols consistently.

Having a workplace handbook on the company’s policy against discrimination is a good idea. Work with an experienced employment lawyer when developing a handbook and training materials on maintaining a discrimination-free workplace. There are nuanced differences between federal and state laws, and both should be reflected in the handbook to be used as a reference for training employees on discrimination. Handbooks should also be frequently updated and reviewed.

Provide the handbook to each new hire and every employee. Many employers place anti-discrimination policy language into their general handbook that describes benefits, attendance requirements, and the like. Ask each employee to sign a form indicating they received the handbook. The handbook can be used to develop training for all managers and employees.

A policy against discrimination should also include a complaint processing component. State how employees are to lodge a complaint and explain how they will be handled, from investigation to disciplinary action. It is also very important that employers follow up with every complaint and be consistent with discipline. Federal law requires employers to post a notice explaining the federal laws prohibiting job discrimination based on race, gender, national origin, religion, age, equal pay, disability, or genetic information.

How Can Employers Effectively Communicate with Their Employees?

Communication between employers and employees should be consistent and non-accusatory when matters of discrimination are discussed. Creating a strong employer-employee relationship is very important to prevent discrimination. If an employee does not feel comfortable with their employer, they may not follow guidelines or report any suspected discrimination.

Feedback is vital to establish an anti-discrimination environment at work. Employers should regularly ask how they can improve their anti-discrimination policies, according to federal and local laws, and if employees are experiencing any wrongdoings, such as discrimination or even sexual harassment. When employers openly communicate with employees, it reassures workers that their best interests are being protected.

During conversations, employers should be mindful about their language. If an employer suspects a worker is being discriminatory, they should not start a conversation by accusing them. Employers must take complaints seriously and evidence of discrimination should be provided. Also, disciplinary action must always be incorporated if a worker is being biased, discriminatory, or is harassing other workers. Reports and disciplinary actions must be reported to the company’s Human Resources department.

When Should an Employee Hire a Lawyer?

If an employee feels that their concerns are not being heard, even after discussing discrimination with their employer, they may consider filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), an organization that enforces anti-discrimination policies and makes certain that employers are accountable for their negligent actions.

When an employee wishes to file a complaint, they must notify their employer of the complaint. A Charge of Discrimination will be filed, then the EEOC will interview the employee about their complaint. It is important that employees be thorough with their story and provide evidence of discrimination, such as emails or other forms of written conversations. The EEOC will investigate the employer and determine the next course of action. Complaints should be filed within 180 days.

During this process, it is also extremely beneficial to hire a lawyer. Filing a complaint can be difficult, especially because these matters are often sensitive. An employment lawyer will correctly file a complaint with the EEOC. A lawyer will also construct a case against an employer based on evidence that is provided by the employee. An employment lawyer will know the process and steps to complete when discrimination occurs. They will also be knowledgeable about deadlines and what to do if a case is denied. Additionally, by hiring an employment lawyer, an employer will take the discrimination complaint seriously.

Philadelphia Employment Lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. Advocate for Those Suffering from Workplace Discrimination

If you were discriminated against in the workplace, the Philadelphia employment lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. can help. We will review your case and fight for the justice you deserve. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania. For an initial consultation, call us at 215-574-0600 or complete an online form today.

How Should Companies Terminate Remote Employees During a Pandemic?

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Before the arrival of COVID-19, more than 50 percent of employees in the United States had a job that could have been done remotely, yet less than four percent of them primarily worked from home, according to Global Workplace Analytics. Faced with lockdown mandates in March 2020, all types of businesses ordered employees to work remotely.

As a consequence, managers must now navigate the process of having to fire or lay off employees who are working from home. There are additional legal considerations when termination is not handled in person. Learning best practices for terminating remote employees during a pandemic can help employers avoid legal pitfalls and manage the process more smoothly.

General Legal Considerations

Firing or laying off a worker signals the termination of the employer-employee relationship. Whether or not the employee had a written employee contract, the employer should always document the separation with a written termination letter, prepared in advance. Wording is important, as it could be used as evidence in litigation should the termination be contested.

Although employment is generally considered at-will, employers must ensure that they are not violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act or any other state or federal laws against discrimination when terminating a worker. Other legal matters to consider include the following:

  • Personnel file. Review documentation of all conduct and any attempts at remediation.
  • Determine what compensation is owed to the employee and whether they will be eligible for unemployment benefits.
  • Incidents that may suggest retaliation. If the employee filed a Workers’ Compensation claim or complained about questionable company practices, they may have grounds for claiming the termination is an act of retaliation.

Employers must take time to weigh these factors before termination. When in doubt, the company should consult an employment lawyer before firing or laying off an employee.

Special Considerations for Terminating Remote Employees

Terminating a remote employee requires additional planning, as the following questions will need to be addressed:

  • How will access to remote equipment and online accounts be removed? It is critical to coordinate closely with the IT department to schedule the exact time for removing a terminated employee’s online access to email and other licensed software, and to collect hardware if needed.
  • Who will communicate the decision? The employee’s direct supervisor is usually the best spokesperson to communicate the termination in person, along with a representative from human resources (HR). However, sending a Zoom meeting invitation that includes HR may give the employee advanced warning, which may undermine secure removal of access to company online resources.
  • How will the decision be communicated to other remote colleagues? Direct managers should deliver the news to their team members. It is best to keep others on mute during a group Zoom meeting.
  • How should the hardcopy termination letter be delivered? The termination letter should be sent overnight, requiring signature on delivery, to arrive the day after the news is verbally communicated to the employee via virtual means.

Managers are less able to get a true sense of the person’s reaction to termination when it happens remotely. For this reason, organizations may want to monitor public comments made by former employees after remote termination in case there is a need to respond to negative publicity.

Will Businesses Continue to Use More Remote Workers?

Global Workplace Analytics predicts that at least 25 percent of U.S workers will still be doing their jobs remotely by the end of 2021. Reasons for this change include the following:

  • Since the pandemic, managers and executives have learned to trust that remote workers are actually doing their jobs at home.
  • Cost savings. Businesses are reducing overhead by allowing employees to work from home.
  • Climate benefits. Many people noticed a reduction in traffic and air pollution in April 2020, marking another shift in an increasing awareness that working from home supports sustainability of the planet.

With a greater percentage of employees working from home, the act of terminating employees remotely instead of in-person is likely to become more commonplace. Preparing for this change can make the transition easier.

Philadelphia Employment Lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. Offer Clear Guidance on Complex Legal Issues

Terminating employees who work remotely adds another layer of complexity to managing a workforce. Although planning ahead can help managers avoid most legal risks, questions may still arise. If you are facing a complex legal matter, the Philadelphia employment lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. are available to review your situation and provide sound guidance to help you make better business decisions. Do not hesitate to contact us online or call 215-574-0600 to arrange an initial consultation. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

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Recent Study Reveals Extent of Sexual Harassment in Workplace Culture

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A recent survey of 2,120 legal professionals indicated that sexual harassment continues to be a serious problem in the workplace. The study, released by Women Lawyers on Guard, was reviewed in a July 2020 article published in the ABA Journal. The study focused on the effects of sexual harassment, as well as how sexual harassment in the workplace has evolved during the past 30 years. The study concluded that sexual harassment is deeply embedded in workplace culture, and only by changing that culture can progress be achieved.

Survey respondents were asked to characterize sexual harassment incidents in the workplace they experienced in the past 30 years. During that time, the study found a decrease in the percentage of sexual assaults and incidents of threats or bribes in exchange for sexual favors. However, incidents of sexually offensive jokes, sexualized name-calling, and rating women have increased. More than one-third of the incidents today occur in off-site business meetings or at the office, and about one in four occur in private.

Effects of Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment continues to have negative effects on victims and the workplace environment overall. More than 60 percent of survey respondents reported experiencing anxiety about their careers or workplaces due to sexual harassment. More than one-third believed that the incidents caused a loss in their productivity, and more than one-fourth reported having a negative impact on their careers. Fear of retaliation for reporting sexual harassment was widespread, with 40 percent of respondents replying that this was a concern.

Putting a Stop to Sexual Harassment

It has been more than 55 years since Title VII of the Civil Rights Act outlawed discrimination on the basis of sex. Since that time, most corporations have instituted policies against sexual harassment, requiring employees to attend training courses explaining those policies. Yet, the problem still exists. The Woman Lawyers on Guard study points to several reasons why existing approaches are not working, including the following:

  • Sexual harassment is treated as a compliance issue rather than a workplace culture issue;
  • Sexual harassment is about power; and
  • Unequal power dynamics in corporate structures foster a workplace culture of sexual harassment.

The study suggests that addressing the underlying power imbalance at work must happen first to combat the problem of sexual harassment. Change starts at the top because workplace culture is shaped by the worst behavior the CEO is willing to tolerate, according to the study.

What Steps Can Organizations Take?

The following are steps organizations can take to begin identifying and addressing cultural issues that allow harassment to continue:

  • Gather baseline data about the workplace. This includes identifying the demographics of those in power and surveying employees using a confidential, anonymous reporting tools.
  • Offer meaningful training. Instead of just showing a video once a year, organizations may consider holding group sessions on topics, such as how bystanders can intervene and stop inappropriate behavior.
  • Consider a no-tolerance policy. Rather than let high-performing employees continually get away with inappropriate behavior, organizations should make it clear that all employees must be respectful no matter how much revenue they bring in.

Any type of sexual harassment in the workplace is counterproductive, whether it meets the legal definition of discrimination or creates a hostile work environment. Changing workplace culture is a long process but a necessary one if companies are to move toward positive change.

Philadelphia Employment Lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. Respond to Legal Challenges with Experience and Skill

Sexual harassment in the workplace can damage individual productivity and derail careers. The Philadelphia employment lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. are familiar with complex legal challenges in cases involving sexual harassment and discrimination. We approach these matters with skill and experience. If you have questions or concerns about sexual harassment in the workplace, discrimination, or any other matter of employment law, call us at 215-574-0600 or fill out our online form. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

What Should Employers Know About Hiring Seasonal Workers?

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Many employers rely on seasonal labor to meet fluctuations in business activity. In the summer, industry sectors hiring seasonal workers include hospitality, landscaping, agriculture, travel, and recreation. Employers with seasonal workers can help ensure legal compliance by understanding the ways in which the temporary nature of seasonal employment impacts the employer-employee relationship.

How Does the Employer-Employee Relationship Change?

When a business hires an individual for seasonal work, the expectations of both employer and employee change in several ways. First and foremost, the employer approaches the employment agreement with the understanding that the demand for work is temporary. Whether it is a 12-week summer camp or a field of crops to be harvested, when the work or time period is complete, the seasonal worker will be terminated.

Aspects of traditional permanent employment, including promotions, raises, and building a career path are typically not part of the expectations of employers or employees. Ideally, the seasonal employee understands this as well. Employers should be clear when explaining to workers the nature of their work and when they can expect it to end. Setting false expectations regarding raises or permanent positions can lead to problems.

What Employer Responsibilities Remain the Same Regarding Seasonal Workers?

Most employment laws that protect the rights of permanent employees also apply to seasonal workers. The following employer responsibilities remain the same regarding seasonal workers:

  • Providing a safe workplace. The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSHA) requires employers to provide hazard-free workplaces that are free of known dangers that could harm their employees.
  • Classifying workers appropriately. Employers may be tempted to misclassify temporary workers as independent contractors to avoid paying payroll taxes; doing so may violate standards set by the Internal Revenue Service.
  • Paying overtime. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employers must pay time-and-a-half for any hours worked in excess of 40 in a given workweek.
  • Protecting workers from discrimination. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, as well as state laws in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, prohibit workplace discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) also protects workers with disabilities.
  • Providing health care. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires employers to provide health care benefits to employees working more than 30 hours per week for more than 120 days.

There are certain exceptions for agriculture and family-owned businesses. The Department of Labor offers guidance to employers of seasonal workers regarding overtime pay, meal breaks, youth employment, and hazardous occupations.

Special Considerations for Agricultural Workers During the Pandemic

The spread of COVID-19 raises additional concerns for employers of seasonal farm labor. To help protect the health of agricultural workers, the state of New Jersey issued the following guidelines:

  • Workplace and housing safety: Workers must wear employer-provided face masks at all times in the presence of others.
  • Social distancing during work time:Employers need to promote social distancing and offer staggered shifts.
  • Sanitation:Employers are to disinfect high-touch areas.

Additionally, employers must screen workers for COVID-19 symptoms prior to work shifts. Workers exhibiting symptoms must be separated from other workers and be seen by a physician.

Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. are Employment Attorneys in Philadelphia That Offer Experienced Counsel Regarding Employment Issues

The relationship between employers and employees is subject to a myriad of state and federal laws. Seasonal workers are covered by most of these laws, even though they are temporary employees. Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. are employment attorneys in Philadelphia that help businesses and workers navigate the legal landscape of employment law. Contact us online or call us at 215-574-0600 for an initial consultation today. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

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