Category: Discrimination

NLRB Rule Does Not Recognize Graduate Students as Employees

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Philadelphia employment lawyers assist clients with NLRB employment issues.Graduate students often teach classes and conduct valuable research while earning an advanced degree. However, according to a proposed rule by the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”), graduate students are not considered employees, meaning they do not have the right to unionize. Graduate students from leading private institutions across the country have mobilized to fight for unionization to secure higher wages, better benefits, and protection for workers to help deal with sexual harassment and discrimination complaints. If passed, the rule would undercut those efforts.

According to the professor of labor and employment law at Cornell University and general counsel for the American Association of University Professors, the current NLRB is made up of mostly conservative board members who happen to be extremely political and intent on overruling decisions made by previous administrations that expanded employee rights to unionize. According to the professor, the NLRB made these decisions on a case-by-case basis in the past, but that appears to be changing.

Is Graduate Work Considered Work or Education?

At the heart of the argument is whether the teaching and research that graduate students conduct is considered work, or if it is part of their continued education. In 2016, the NLRB decided that Columbia students who were paid to teach and conduct research were considered employees and had the right to unionize. Prior to that, there was some back and forth among NLRB members, which impacted students’ rights to unionize. Prior to the Columbia decision, representatives from nine prestigious universities argued that graduate students have an academic relationship with the university, rather than an economic one. However, the NLRB ruled that graduate students could have a dual status of economic and academic.

Following the Columbia decision, students have come together to form unions at several private universities such as Harvard University, Brown University, Yale University, the University of Chicago, and several others voting in favor of unionization. Graduate students who are currently negotiating for employee status are unsure about how the proposed rule will impact their efforts. If the rule is passed, students have vowed to continue to fight for unionization.

Students at the University of Chicago, Yale University, Boston College, and the University of Pennsylvania sent petitions to the NLRB but withdrew them out of fear that Trump-appointed members would issue an anti-union decision. According to the executive director of the National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions at Hunter College, it is Congress that has the authority to decide employment status, but the NLRB rule seems to be taking over that authority.

Philadelphia Employment Lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green, P.C. Assist Clients with Employment Issues

If you are a graduate student at a college or university, and your employment status prevents you from being able to unionize, contact the Philadelphia employment lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. Protecting your legal rights is our top priority and we will ensure that you receive the financial compensation to which you are entitled. To schedule an initial consultation, call us today at 215-574-0600 or contact us online. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout South Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.

Supreme Court to Decide on Racial Bias Lawsuit Against Comcast

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Philadelphia business lawyers represent clients facing a racial bias lawsuit.Byron Allen, owner of Entertainment Studios Network (ESN)—an African American-owned media company—filed a discrimination lawsuit against Comcast, alleging that the telecommunications giant refused to carry any of the network’s channels due to racially discriminatory practices. A federal court initially dismissed the claims. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals deemed the lawsuit legitimate after Allen appealed the initial decision. Comcast appealed the decision, which ultimately brought the case to the Supreme Court.

According to Allen, Comcast had assured him that his channels were being considered for carriage, and that they were on the “short list” for new channels. However, rather than follow through with that assurance, Comcast moved forward with over 80 lesser-known channels, all of which were owned by caucasians. Comcast characterized the claims as “outlandish” and that the decision to launch the other channels had nothing to do with race.

The key issue that the Supreme Court will be considering is whether there is enough evidence of racial discrimination to allow the lawsuit to proceed. Allen claims that Comcast is in violation of Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act, which guarantees racial equality in a number of domains, including business. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco opined that ESN only had to prove that discrimination was a motivating factor in Comcast’s decision regarding ESN programming. However, Comcast argued that Congress allowed “motivating factor” discrimination claims under the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, but purposely did not include a similar provision to Section 1981. ESN countered by arguing that Congress added the provision to Title VII to protect discrimination victims, and that this should not mean Congress planned to limit civil rights claims under Section 1981.

Philadelphia Business Lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. Represent Clients Alleging Discriminatory Business Practices

If you have questions about what you suspect is racially discriminatory conduct, you are urged to contact the Philadelphia business lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. at your earliest convenience. Our skilled legal team will thoroughly review your case and determine whether your civil rights have been violated. To schedule a confidential consultation, call us today at 215-574-0600 or contact us online. Our office is conveniently located in Philadelphia, where we represent clients from South Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.

Judge Denies Philadelphia Man’s Lawsuit Against Domino’s Over Racial Slur

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Philadelphia business litigation lawyers will fight for your rights against racial discrimination.A Philadelphia resident filed a lawsuit against Domino’s Pizza after a Domino’s employee allegedly directed a racial slur at him during a confrontation in July of 2017. The customer had complained that he received a pizza via delivery that was burnt. He drove to the restaurant to return the pizza and request a refund. The situation became heated after the customer took a picture of the employee, who refused to give the customer his refund unless he agreed to delete the photo. The employee claimed that having her picture taken was against her religion. As the argument escalated, the Domino’s employee allegedly directed an offensive racial slur at the customer. A Pennsylvania Superior Court judge ruled that, while offensive, a racial slur is not enough to warrant a lawsuit.

Ruling Based on 1985 Precedent

The initial lawsuit claimed that Domino’s was negligent in the way it hired, trained, and supervised its employees. The customer claimed that the racial slur directed at him caused emotional distress. Due to a precedent that was established in 1985 in the Pennsylvania Superior Court, which ruled that an individual can only be held liable for emotional distress if the individual’s conduct is extreme and outrageous, the initial lawsuit was dismissed.

The precedent is based on an incident involving an altercation between a department store employee and a shopper, where the employee reportedly directed the n-word at the shopper. The ruling states that an individual cannot be held liable for mere insults, threats, and other indignities or trivialities. Until legal and societal changes occur, plaintiffs must be expected to accept a certain degree of offensive, inconsiderate, or unkind acts. The law cannot intervene every time someone’s feelings are hurt.

The Domino’s customer appealed after the initial lawsuit was dismissed, claiming that the 1985 ruling was outdated. While the Pennsylvania Superior Court made it clear that it does not condone such offensive and derogatory language, the appeal was denied.

Philadelphia Business Litigation Lawyers at The Law Office of Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. Handle a Range of Legal Matters

If you suffered emotional distress, financial harm, or were injured in any way as a result of racial discrimination in the workplace, you are urged to contact the Philadelphia business litigation lawyers at The Law Office of Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. To schedule a confidential consultation, call us today at 215-574-0600 or contact us online. Our offices are located in Philadelphia, where we represent clients in South Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.

Supreme Court Rejects Lawsuit Challenging Trans-Friendly Restroom Policy

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Philadelphia local counsel advocate for LGBTQ & trans-friendly restroom policy.In the case of Doe v. Boyertown Area School District, the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative legal organization, filed a lawsuit on behalf of an anonymous group of students lead by “Joel Doe” and his parents. The lawsuit claimed that Doe and a group of students who attended Boyertown Area High School felt uncomfortable sharing a restroom with a transgender student. The students also argued that the mere presence of a transgender individual in a single-space area – like a restroom – threatened their health and safety. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

By refusing to hear the lawsuit, the ruling by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stands, which means that transgender students may use the restroom that corresponds to their gender identity. According to Appeals Court Judge Theodore McKee, the Boyertown Area School District created a policy that respected the unique needs of transgender students. This starts with allowing them to access spaces that match their gender identity.

Boyertown’s Policy Does Not Violate the Rights of Other Students

The lower court ruled that allowing transgender students in sex-segregated schools did not violate the rights of students who are cisgender, or whose own gender experiences correspond to their birth sex. In addition, it does not violate their rights under Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972. According to the law, schools may provide single-sex bathrooms that are comparable to other single-sex facilities, but it is not mandatory. Boyertown’s current policy also states that a student may use gender-neutral or single-user restrooms if they would rather not use the shared facilities.

Doe and the other students said that the presence of transgender students in bathrooms made them uncomfortable. They further argued that the current policy is a form a sexual harassment. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) got involved with the case to support the Pennsylvania Youth Congress, which is a group of LGBTQ leaders and youth organizations. The ACLU also intervened on behalf of a transgender student who had attended Boyertown Area Senior High School during the previous year. According to a senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s LGBT & HIV Project, the outcome of the lawsuit is a tremendous victory for transgender students.

Philadelphia Local Counsel at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. Advocate for Transgender Rights

If your civil rights have been violated because of your LGBTQ status, Philadelphia local counsel at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green, P.C. will protect your rights, including your right to use the restroom that corresponds to your gender identity. To schedule a confidential consultation, call us today at 215-574-0600 or contact us online. Our offices are located in Philadelphia, where we represent clients in South Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.

  Category: Discrimination
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Pregnancy Discrimination at Amazon

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Philadelphia employment lawyers advocate for the rights of pregnant workers.Federal and state laws prohibit employers from discriminating against employees because of a number of protected characteristics, including pregnancy. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act mandates that any decisions related to hiring, firing, promotion or demotion, transfer, salary, or benefits cannot be based on an employee’s pregnancy status. Online retailer Amazon has recently come under fire for alleged pregnancy discrimination, facing seven lawsuits in the past eight years.

Amazon is a vast company of more than 600,000 employees that has built its success on productivity. With its guarantee of two-day shipping for Prime customers – recently reduced to one day – the company’s fulfillment centers operate at a fast pace and demand that workers reach high packing quotas. Critics of the company say that this productivity often comes at the expense of employees’ well-being.

Pregnant Workers Penalized for Reduced Productivity

Workers in Amazon’s fulfillment centers often work 10-hour days, most of which is spent on their feet; and they are frequently moving heavy objects. They are typically allotted 30 minutes each shift for non-work tasks, such as going to the restroom. Any additional time could affect an employee’s rate, a metric used to measure their productivity. According to the lawsuits, pregnant employees, who need some accommodations for their condition, were disproportionately affected by these policies.

In the most recent case, an employee at Amazon’s Golden State Fulfillment Center in California was fired two months after informing management that she was pregnant. Her lawsuit alleges that, during those two months, her supervisors chastised her for taking too many bathroom breaks and reducing her productivity. Another employee filed a lawsuit after requesting not to climb ladders or lift boxes over 20 pounds, at the advice of her doctor. Her managers put her on unpaid leave for over a month while they claimed they were trying to accommodate her requests; when she returned, no accommodations had been made, and she was terminated a month later. Two others were fired after taking sick days during their pregnancies.

Amazon released a statement refuting the allegations in the lawsuits, saying that they would not terminate an employee due to pregnancy. The company claims that they accommodate work restrictions for pregnant employees based on their individual needs, and that they do not keep tabs on employees’ bathroom breaks. The statements made in the lawsuits tell a very different story, in which managers stood waiting for employees to return from breaks and rejected doctors’ notes requesting accommodation. Six of the seven lawsuits were settled out of court.

Philadelphia Employment Lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. Advocate for the Rights of Pregnant Workers

Employers are required by law to make reasonable accommodations for workers’ medical conditions, including pregnancy. If you have been subjected to pregnancy discrimination in the workplace, call the law offices of Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. We will thoroughly review the facts of your case and work to ensure that your rights are protected. With offices located in Center City, Philadelphia, we represent victims of workplace discrimination throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Call us today at 215-574-0600 or contact us online to discuss your case with a Philadelphia employment lawyer.

Dismissing Federal Lawsuit Does Not Delay Statute of Limitations

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Philadelphia appellant lawyers assist clients with the appeals for statute of limitations.In the case of Jaiden Buchan v. The Milton Hershey School, the Pennsylvania Superior Court recently ruled that the clock does not stop on the statute of limitations for making a claim in state court, simply because someone voluntarily withdraws a lawsuit. Buchan filed a complaint against the school in December of 2016, alleging that the school had violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Fair Housing Act. She voluntarily withdrew her lawsuit against the school on June 19, 2017. The plaintiff filed a writ of summons in July of 2017, but the court ruled that the voluntary withdrawal of her lawsuit was not the same as a federal court dismissing the case for lack of jurisdiction.

According to Judge Alice Beck Dubow, since Buchan filed an action in federal district court, and then voluntarily dismissed it, this does not toll the statute of limitations. The Dauphin County Court of Common Pleas dismissed the case in April 2018, saying that since there was no pause caused by the federal suit, the window to file an action closed when Buchan turned 20, which was six months before she filed the Complaint in state court.

Claims Made by Buchan

Buychan claimed that the school neglected her mental health issues, unfairly punished her for getting a tattoo, and accused her of starting a fire at the school, which resulted in her being expelled from the school. She initially filed claims in the federal court in December 2016, alleging that the school intentionally inflicted emotional distress, as well as other violations of the ADA, including breach of fiduciary duties of care and malicious prosecution. However, Buchan withdrew the suit in June of 2017.

Later that year, Buchan filed a writ of summons in Dauphin County, and two months later she filed a complaint alleging negligence, breach of duties of care and good faith, emotional distress, and malicious prosecution. The state court dismissed the case, saying that it was time-barred. Buchan appealed, arguing that according to the Title 42, Section 5103 of Pennsylvania’s Consolidated Statutes, the statute of limitations is tolled when a case is dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. Because she withdrew her case, Buchan argued that she “rendered the federal court without federal jurisdiction.” As a result, her federal suit should have stopped the clock. In addition, she argued that the Title 28, Section 1367 of the U.S. Code gave her 30 days to refile in state court if a federal court did not exercise supplemental jurisdiction. According to Buchan, less than 30 days had passed between the voluntary dismissal and the first filing in the state lawsuit. Section 1367 included voluntarily dismissed cases.

The Superior Court ruled that the “voluntarily dismissed” part of Section 1367 only applies to claims that are not being considered by the federal court under supplemental jurisdiction. Judge Dubrow wrote that the language in the Section 1367 does not apply to Buchan’s case because she voluntarily dismissed all of the state law claims she asserted in her federal complaint under supplemental jurisdiction.

Philadelphia Appellant Lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green, P.C. Assist Clients with the Appeals Process

The Philadelphia appellant lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green, P.C. have extensive experience handling various types of appeals, including issues relating to employment discrimination, due process, and constitutional law, among others. To schedule a confidential consultation, call us today at 215-574-0600 or contact us online. Our offices are conveniently located in Center City Philadelphia, where we serve clients from Southeastern Pennsylvania, South Jersey, and New Jersey.

UPS Settles Religious Discrimination Case for $4.9 Million

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In the largest class religious discrimination settlement in the history of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the United Parcel Service (UPS) has agreed to pay the EEOC $4.9 million to resolve a lawsuit claiming that the company was biased against current and prospective employees who wear beards and long hair for religious reasons.

The lawsuit alleged that the company’s uniform and appearance guidelines that employees are required to follow are biased against certain religious groups.

In addition to refusing to hire individuals who had beards and long hair, UPS failed to provide these employees with the same opportunities as other employees. For example, UPS only allowed employees with religious-related beards and long hair to work in nonsupervisory jobs that did not involve any customer contact. In addition, they were not considered for promotions and were not provided with faith-based work accommodations, according to the EEOC.

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York ruled that UPS had to establish a $4.4 million claims fund for the workers who brought the case to the EEOC, as well as a class of other claimants that the EEOC has identified.

With the remaining $500,000 of the $4.9 million settlement, a reserve fund must be established for claimants who have not yet been identified by either party. UPS must also revisit its application forms and religious accommodations processes, and make the appropriate changes.

Religious Charges Have Doubled Over the Past Two Decades

According to the executive director for the American Association for Access, Equity, and Diversity, since 1997 the number of religious charges filed with the EEOC has doubled. As a result, she said, their organization will be offering a wide range of training programs that will address racial and ethnic intolerance.

Religious freedom is one of the fundamental rights afforded to all citizens of this country, and it must be protected, a judicial analyst for the religious freedom advocacy group Focus on the Family pointed out.

Employers have a responsibility to make religious accommodations that ensure reasonable accommodations for employees, while making sure that it does not impose an unreasonable hardship on the business, according to a Senior Vice President for the Center for Workplace Compliance.

If wearing a beard or long hair presents a safety issue, it could jeopardize the safety of the worker and pose an undue hardship on the employer. For example, if the business involves the use of machinery that poses a constant risk of a caught-in/between accident.

It is important that employers understand that the EEOC will continue to closely examine decisions related to religious discrimination.

Philadelphia Employment Lawyers at The Law Office of Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. Represent Employees in Discrimination Cases

If your religious rights have been violated, contact the Philadelphia employment lawyers at the Law Office of Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. We will protect your rights and secure the maximum financial compensation you deserve. To schedule a confidential consultation, call us today at 215-574-0600 or contact us online. Our offices are conveniently located in Philadelphia, where we serve clients throughout South Jersey, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Jury Awards $6M to Teva Executive in Discrimination Lawsuit

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An executive at Teva Pharmaceuticals was recently awarded $6 million by a federal jury in a discrimination lawsuit. The plaintiff was a senior director for the Israeli-based company and had worked for the company since 2001. He was fired from the company in 2016, when he was 58 years old. He alleged that he was wrongfully terminated because of his age and national origin.

Details of the lawsuit allege that the plaintiff’s supervisor had a history of making anti-American comments. For example, he stated that the United States did a poor job of providing adequate military support to Israel in the conflict with the Middle East. According to the plaintiff, the Israeli supervisors did not provide American employees with information when it was requested, and they told him that hiring decisions were made based on employees’ ages. In addition, the Israeli supervisors regularly requested additional data about American employees.

In response to the perceived unfair treatment, a group of American employees filed a report alleging cultural bias. The plaintiff also stated that the Israeli supervisors micromanaged the American employees. After reviewing the report, the higher-ups at the company terminated the plaintiff for deficient performance, even though he had never received a negative performance review in his tenure with the company.

The company made a request for a summary judgment, but the request was denied as the Pennsylvania federal trial court found that there was enough evidence to send the case to trial. Employers can claim reverse discrimination or prevent a discrimination claim if they can provide accurate reasons for the employment decisions that they made, including detailed documentation for their decision-making process.

Philadelphia Employment Lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. Represent Employees in Discrimination Cases

If your employee rights have been violated or you have been discriminated against by another employee, you are urged to contact the Philadelphia employment lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. We will review the details of your case and recommend the best legal course of action. To schedule a confidential consultation, call us today at 215-574-0600 or contact us online. Our offices are conveniently located in Philadelphia, where we serve clients throughout southeastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Expanded Definition of “Sex” Protects Rights of LGBTQ Community in Pennsylvania

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The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission recently released new guidelines for handling discrimination complaints based on gender identity or sexual orientation. The Commission expanded its legal definition of “sex” to include not only the individual’s biological sex, but also his or her sexual orientation, gender expression, gender transition, and gender identity. As a result, LGBTQ Pennsylvanians may now file civil complaints with the Commission if they believe that they have been denied employment, education, housing opportunities, or public accommodations on the basis that identify as LGBTQ.

More Comprehensive Legislation Needed

While this change is an important step for LGBTQ rights, it does not take the place of comprehensive, state-wide legislation, according to the advocacy group, Equality PA. Since the 1990s when the laws were updated, the General Assembly declined to change the laws on several occasions. Local municipalities, including Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, have passed ordinances that help to add gender identity and sexual orientation as protected classes. However, a proposal in Harrisburg may jeopardize those laws.

Many people already assumed that protections were in place, so the updated guidelines bring the law in line with protections that people thought already existed. Prior to the updated guidelines, Pennsylvanians who wanted to pursue legal action against an employer for discrimination had to file a Title VII lawsuit against their employer. However, unlike those listed in the Human Relations Act, anti-discrimination protections under Title VII do not apply to retail stores, restaurants, and other public accommodations.

The Commission received thousands of comments from Pennsylvania residents, ranging from concerns over religious liberty to claiming that the proposal would expose women and children to sexual assaults in public restrooms. The Commission stated that the Religious Freedom Protection Act prohibits governments from placing a significant burden on the “free exercise of religion,” and the law does not apply to private businesses. Burden is defined as a government action that results in the following:

  • Constrains or inhibits conduct or expression mandated by a person’s sincerely held religious beliefs
  • Curtails a person’s ability to express adherence to that person’s religious faith
  • Denies a person a reasonable opportunity to engage in those activities that are fundamental to that person’s religion
  • Compels conduct or expression that violates a mandatory tenet of a person’s religious faith

Philadelphia Business Lawyers at the Law Office of Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. Handle Claims Involving LGBTQ Discrimination

If your rights have been discriminated against due to your gender identity or sexual orientation, contact the Philadelphia business lawyers at the Law Office of Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. To schedule a confidential consultation, call us today at 215-574-0600 or contact us online. Our offices are conveniently located in Philadelphia, where we serve clients throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

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Supreme Court Ruling States That ADEA Applies to Public Employers with Less Than 20 Employees

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A new unanimous ruling by the United States Supreme Court in Mount Lemmon Fire District v. Guido states that all public employers in every state must now comply with the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), regardless of how many or how few individuals the organization employs.

Prior to 1974, the ADEA only applied to private employers, which meant that employees of public entities were not protected by law against age discrimination. In 1974, Congress amended the ADEA to include a wider range of employers. Specifically, Congress modified the definition of “employer” to include public employers that had twenty or more employees. However, since the amendment was made, courts interpreted the definition in ways that prevented certain states and political subdivisions from being subject to the ADEA.

In Mount Lemmon, two seasoned fire fighters from Mount Lemmon, Arizona were terminated after budget cuts. The two firefighters claimed that they were discriminated against due to their age, and that the fire department was in violation of the ADEA.  The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) agreed, but the federal district court found in favor of the fire department, because it was a public employer with fewer than 20 employees.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the ruling, stating that the language of the ADEA created a distinction between a “person” employer, who must have at least twenty employees, and a public employer, to whom the 20 employee threshold does not apply. Other circuit courts likewise found the language ambiguous. The Supreme Court granted a review of the case due to the circuit split.

The key issue in the case had to do with the phrase “also means” in the definition clause, and whether it added new categories of employers, or simply clarified the employees mentioned in the clause. The firefighters argued that the wording added new categories of employees, while the Fire District claimed that the language clarified the term “person” to include any organized group of persons, which includes state and local employers.

The Supreme Court found that the phrase, “also means” is additive in nature. As a result, state and political subdivisions are considered an additional category of employers, and thus do not need to satisfy the 20 employee threshold.

Philadelphia Employment Lawyers at the Law Office of Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. Represent Clients in Age Discrimination Cases

Philadelphia employment lawyers at the Law Office of Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. protect employees who have been discriminated against due to their age. To set up a confidential consultation, call us today at 215-574-0600 or contact us online. Our offices are located in Philadelphia, where we represent clients in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.