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Philadelphia Employment Lawyers: Sexual Orientation Discrimination

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In a recent groundbreaking ruling, a Pennsylvania district court found that discrimination based on someone’s perceived sexual orientation falls under the protections of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The individual involved in the case was a homosexual man employed as a telemarketer by Scott Medical Health Center. The lawsuit alleged his manager made offensive and unwanted comments to him about his sexual orientation several times a week. He further claims that he was asked explicit questions and was exposed to homophobic slurs. The man claims he reported the conduct to the health center’s president, but no action was taken to stop the harassment. Ultimately, the man says that he was constructively discharged because the treatment he endured created a hostile work environment.

The defendants moved to dismiss the claim on the grounds that perceived sexual orientation was not protected under Title VII.  However, the court ruled against defendants, finding no meaningful difference existed between sexual orientation discrimination and discrimination because of sex. The court noted that sex stereotyping included assumptions about how a person’s sexuality should conform to their sex and gender. The court ultimately likened the plaintiff’s experience to that of a female employee who is told to dress more femininely, or wear make-up and jewelry in order to achieve promotion. The court cited recent decisions across the U.S. Courts that have increasingly been finding that sexual orientation is a Title VII protected trait. The court also drew from the Supreme Court opinion legalizing same-sex marriage.

Philadelphia Employment Lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green Represent Employees in Sexual Discrimination and Sexual Harassment Claims

If you have suffered an adverse employment action such as failure to hire, termination, or denial of a promotion on the grounds of your sexual orientation or because of your gender, you may have a valid discrimination claim. Philadelphia employment lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green will fight back against injustice. We seek maximum compensation for damages suffered as a result of discrimination. To learn more about how we can help you, call us at 215-574-0600 or contact us online today.

Philadelphia Whistleblower Lawyers: The False Claims Act 

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The False Claims Act is a federal law that holds people and companies liable for defrauding government programs. Pursuant to this Act, private citizens can sue those that commit fraud against the government. These cases are referred to as “qui tam” cases, because they are brought under the qui tam provision of the False Claims Act. The Act provides for treble (triple) damages, and provides whistleblowers with awards of 15 to 30 percent of the money recovered. The Department of Justice (DOJ) recently announced that 2016 was the third highest recovery year in the history of the False Claims Act.

The DOJ issued a press release stating that they obtained close to $5 billion in settlements and judgments for cases where persons or companies defrauded the federal government in 2016. More than 50 percent of these recoveries were brought under the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act. The whistleblowers recovered a staggering $519 million in 2016 alone.

Most of the money recovered in 2016 came from the health care industry. The next common sector where recoveries were made was the financial sector, largely relating to housing and mortgage fraud. Procurement fraud, fraud associated with federal education funds, and customs fraud followed close behind.

Philadelphia Whistleblower Lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. Counsel Clients About Whistleblower Protections

Whistleblowers may be entitled to confidentiality and protection against employer retaliation. The highly-experienced Philadelphia whistleblower lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green can advise you of your rights, and help you determine whether you are eligible for compensation under the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act or under other state and federal laws. To schedule a consultation, call us at 215-574-0600 or contact us online today.

 

 

Philadelphia Whistleblower Lawyers: Award for Penn State Whistleblower

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Michael McQueary, a former Penn State University assistant football coach, was recently awarded an additional $5 million by a Pennsylvania judge.  Judge Thomas Gavin of Centre County, Pennsylvania found that McQueary met the state law definition of a whistleblower.  He further found that Penn State wrongfully terminated his employment in retaliation for the whistleblowing.  The court ordered that McQueary be compensated for lost wages, reputational damage, and humiliation.  Significantly, the judge stated that had Penn State publicly recognized McQueary for stepping forward, it would have helped reduce the public shame the school caused him by firing him.

During the eight seasons he served as an assistant coach at Penn State, McQueary coached wide receivers for head coach Joe Paterno.  In 2001, he allegedly witnessed retired assistant coach Sandusky sexually assaulting a young boy.  This was ten years before the scandal was brought to light and Sandusky was charged.  In 2012, Sandusky was found guilty of molesting 10 boys.  He was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison.

McQueary also claimed in his lawsuit that former Penn State President Graham Spanier defamed him during a 2011 public statement.  The jury awarded McQueary $7.3 million in compensatory and punitive damages as a result of the defamation and misrepresentation.

Philadelphia Whistleblower Lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green Fight for Employees Who Stand Up to Injustice

Under the law, a whistleblower may be a person who exposes illegal or wrongful activity.  In order to encourage people to step forward to report such activity, there are certain protections in place for whistleblowers under the law.  If you suspect that your employer has retaliated against you for reporting illegal or wrongful activity, you may be entitled to compensation under the Pennsylvania Whistleblower Law or other relevant statutes.  To discuss your situation with one of the experienced Philadelphia whistleblower lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green, call us at 215-574-0600 or contact us online today. With offices conveniently located in Philadelphia, we represent clients throughout Pennsylvania and South Jersey.

Philadelphia Discrimination Lawyers: Report Following Lawsuit Alleging Discriminatory Behavior

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On the heels of a complaint filed against them for discrimination, Airbnb Inc. proposes several steps to end discrimination. In complaint entitled Selden v. AIRBNB, Plaintiff alleges that Airbnb unlawfully denied Plaintiff’s application for housing accommodation because of his race. In response to the complaint, Airbnb filed a motion to compel arbitration and dismiss. Although no decision has been reached thus far, in an attempt to stem negative press Airbnb will change its operating procedures to prevent discriminatory behavior in the future.

On September 8, 2016, Airbnb released a report entitled Airbnb’s Work to Fight Discrimination and Build Inclusion by Laura Murphy of the ACLU. In this report they outline their steps to eliminate racism and discrimination. These steps includes changes to methods of bookings such as removing prominence of photographs, a stronger message about Airbnb’s policy on discrimination, and making everyone who uses Airbnb affirmatively agree to Airbnb’s policy on discrimination.

For more information call our Philadelphia discrimination lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green at 215-574-0600 or contact us online.

 

Philadelphia Business Lawyers: Supreme Court to Review Bad Faith Standard for Insurers

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The Pennsylvania Supreme Court will review the issue of establishing insurer bad faith under 42 Pa.C.S. § 8371. The main question at hand is whether the factor of a “motive of self-interest or ill-will” is a discretionary one rather than a mandatory requirement in proving bad faith.

The Superior Court, in the case Rancosky v. Washington National Insurance Company, ruled it was a discretionary factor. 130 A.3d 79 (Pa. Super. Ct., 2015). The plaintiff in the case, LeAnn Rancosky, was denied benefits from her insurance carrier after she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. The insurance policy included a waiver of premium, which stated that premium payments would not be required after the policy owner is disabled due to cancer for more than 90 days after being diagnosed. There was a dispute as to when the disability started, with Rancosky believing the disability started the day she was diagnosed and the carrier believing it was a later date. The carrier ultimately found that the insurance policy had lapsed because Rancosky had not paid her premiums. Among other claims, Rancosky instituted a claim of bad faith against the insurance carrier.

Because the legislature did not provide a definition of bad faith in the statue, there has been some confusion in the courts on how to apply it. Prior cases have found plaintiffs do not need to prove ill-will to proceed with bad faith claims. The Superior Court restated a two-part test to determine bad faith of an insurer: “that (1) the insurer did not have a reasonable basis for denying benefits under the policy, and (2) the insurer knew of or recklessly disregarded its lack of reasonable basis in denying the claim.” (at *92). The Superior Court then held that, “A ‘dishonest purpose’ or ‘motive of self-interest or ill will’ is not a third element required for a finding of bad faith,” but “may be considered in determining the second prong of the test for bad faith, i.e., whether an insurer knowingly or recklessly disregarded its lack of a reasonable basis for denying a claim.” (at *93). The Supreme Court will hear arguments to hopefully settle the issue.

For more information call our Philadelphia business lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green at 215-574-0600 or contact us online.

Philadelphia Business Litigation Lawyers: NJ Superior Court Reverses $18M Verdict in Accutane Litigation

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In July, the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division overturned an $18M jury verdict against Defendant Hoffmann-La Roche Inc., the manufacturer of Accutane, a popular drug for severe cystic acne. Rossitto v. Hoffman-LaRoche Inc., 2016 N.J. Super. Unpub. 2016 WL 3943335 (N.J. App. Div. Jul. 22, 2016). Plaintiffs were Accutane users who claimed that they developed ulcerative colitis, a chronic disease of the large intestine after using the product for years and that the manufacturer failed to adequately warn about the risk of developing this condition.

 

The Appellate Court overturned the verdict and ordered a new trial after the trial court allowed Plaintiffs’ counsel to admit into evidence a change to the drug’s warning label in 2000, after Plaintiffs had stopped taking the drug, even after that evidence was initially barred earlier in the trial. The court found this mistake to be prejudicial to Defendant, because it fostered the belief that the labels previous to the 2000 label did not meet the proper standards. Furthermore, the trial court erred in restricting the number of defense expert witnesses to testify on general causation.

 

Roche has continued to win on appeal in Accutane cases. In 2014 and 2015, the Superior Court reversed a $25 million verdict and a $2.1 million verdict against the company, respectively, in similar cases. In 2010, the same court overturned a $10.5 million verdict against the company, sending the case back for retrial based on a separate evidentiary issue. Roche discontinued the sale of Accutane in 2009.  

For more information, call Philadelphia business lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green at 215-574-0600 or contact us online.

Philadelphia Employment Lawyers: Casino EEOC Claims Settlement

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Colorado casino-hotel, Reserve Casino Hotel, has agreed to pay $250,000 to four women to settle allegations that the casino refused to rehire them on the basis of their age, gender or both, when the casino was sold in 2011.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit against the casino in September 2015 on behalf of four women, who ranged in age from 58 to 63. The women were employed as slot machine attendants or cocktail servers. The casino was then known as the Fortune Valley Hotel and Casino, but then was sold in bankruptcy, emerging as Reserve Casino Hotel. Three of the women were long-time slot machine attendants when they were not rehired in the transfer. They were 60, 62, and 58 years old at the time they were terminated. The fourth woman, started working as a food server in November 2005, and later became a cocktail waitress. She was 63 when she was denied rehire, and the oldest cocktail server applicant.

Older Women Are at Risk for Discrimination

According to the complaint, prior to the sale of the casino, managers photographed floor operations employees, then later used the photos to screen out older and less attractive employees. Then, it allegedly rehired approximately 95 percent of the workforce, screening out the five percent who were older and less attractive. The EEOC has gone on the record to emphasize that older women may be facing more prevalent and acute employment discrimination than those in other subcategories of the workforce, including younger men and women and older men.

The owners of Reserve Casino Hotel signed a 3.5-year consent decree, whereby the four women will share in the $250,000 settlement award. The EEOC will determine how the award is to be split between the four women. The consent decree also mandates that the owners revise their anti-discrimination policies, making a strong and clear commitment to preventing age-based discrimination and retaliation. They also must provide annual training, and education on subconscious stereotypes.

The EEOC sued the owners of Reserve Casino Hotel under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. The women had come forward, spurring the agency to conduct an investigation that lead to a finding that there was a significant lack of hiring of female applicants age 40 or older. The specific allegations included in the complaint were sex discrimination, age discrimination and “sex plus age” discrimination.

Philadelphia Employment Lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green, P.C. Represent Individuals with EEOC Claims

If you suspect that you have suffered from employment discrimination, Philadelphia employment lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green can help you recover maximum compensation and hold the responsible parties accountable. With offices conveniently located in Philadelphia, we represent clients throughout Pennsylvania and South Jersey. Call us at 215-574-0600 or contact us online today.

Philadelphia Business Lawyers: Copyright Infringement Lawsuit

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The Supreme Court recently weighed in on certain copyright infringement issues that have long been unsettled in American law. First, the Court ruled that the resale of foreign-manufactured books in the United States does not violate the “first-sale” provision. In a second related lawsuit, the Court found that the award of attorneys’ fees to the reseller was appropriate. The case, Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., has important implications for intellectual property litigants, because it clearly sets forth the factors courts must consider in determining whether to award attorneys’ fees to a prevailing party.

The case arose when Kirtsaeng instructed family and friends living in Thailand to purchase copies of John Wiley & Sons’ books and ship them back to him in the United States. The books were priced substantially less in Thailand than in the U.S., so Kirtsaeng resold them for a profit. Wiley then sued him for copyright infringement.

The lawsuit alleged that Kirtsaeng infringed Wiley’s right to exclusive distribution under Section 106(3) of the Copyright Act. Kirtsaeng claimed that his purchases and resales were protected under the “first-sale” provision. Wiley’s rebuttal that the provision does not apply to books manufactured abroad was not accepted by the Court, who ruled in favor of Kirtsaeng.

In a second round of litigation arising out of the same set of facts, Kirtsaeng argued that he was entitled to attorneys’ fees under the Copyright Act’s discretionary fee shifting provision, which allows a court to award reasonable attorneys’ fees to a prevailing party. Author of the opinion, Justice Kagan, stated that payment of attorneys’ fees is important to uphold the intent behind the copyright act, which aims to enrich the general public through access to creative works.

Kagan stated that the reasonableness of the losing party’s position should be taken into account in awarding attorneys’ fees, along with other so-called “Fogerty factors,” including:

  • The frivolousness of the losing party’s position.
  • The losing party’s motivation for bringing the suit.
  • Objective unreasonableness of the losing party’s claim.
  • The need in particular circumstances to advance considerations of compensation and deference.

This decision is important for any intellectual property litigant for many reasons, one being that it can help inform a decision whether to settle and for how much. For example, if a litigant’s claim is weak, knowing that going to trial could result in having to pay attorneys’ fees should serve to encourage settlement.

Philadelphia Business Lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. Have Extensive Experience in All Aspects of Business Litigation

Philadelphia business lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. have extensive experience in all types of business tort litigation, including complex copyright infringement matters. With offices conveniently located in Philadelphia, we represent businesses throughout Pennsylvania and South Jersey. To schedule a consultation, call us at 215-574-0600 or contact us online today.

OSHA Fines Epic Health Services $98K After Investigation of Sexual Assault

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In February of 2016, an employee filed a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) after being sexually assaulted by a home care client. The health care worker was employed by AndVenture, which does business as Epic Health Services, and is one of the largest providers of pediatric home health and therapy services for medically frail and chronically ill children.

Prior to OSHA’s investigation, Epic Health had received numerous prior complaints of sexual and physical assaults by employees while working. OSHA found that Epic Health willfully violated regulations involving workplace violence and that Epic Health had no system for reporting threats or incidents of violence. In addition to the citation, Epic Health must also pay a $98,000 fine for the hazards employees encountered while on the job.

Epic Health has fifteen business days from receipt of the citations and proposed fine to comply, request a conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Philadelphia Employment Lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green Advocate for Victims of Work-Related Sexual Assault

If you believe your employer is in violation of the law or your company’s code of ethics, call us immediately. Schedule a consultation by submitting an online contact form or calling 215-574-0600 to discuss your case with one of our Philadelphia employment lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green.

New Jersey Supreme Court Extends Take-Home Exposure Liability to Unrelated Individuals

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The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled on July 7, 2016 that companies can be held liable to their employees’ roommates or partners if those individuals are sickened by exposure to toxic substances carried home on workers’ bodies or clothing, known as a “take-home toxic-tort theory of liability.” Schwartz v. Accuratus Corp., No. A-73-14 (N.J., July 6, 2016)

The New Jersey Supreme Court took up the question at the request of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. The case is from 2012 and was originally filed in Pennsylvania state court, but was removed to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. A woman named Brenda Schwartz brought suit against Accuratus Ceramic Corporation, a ceramics manufacturer that has a facility in Warren County, New Jersey. Accuratus manufactures and uses products containing beryllium, which can cause chronic beryllium disease, and lead to scarring of the lungs. Schwartz was diagnosed with the disease, and claimed it was due to exposure to her then-boyfriend, now-husband, and his roommate’s clothes. Both men worked at the facility.

The district court found that Accuratus had no duty to Schwartz under New Jersey law, because Schwartz was not the spouse of either man, distinguishing the case from a prior decision in which the New Jersey Supreme had extended duty in these kinds of cases to employees’ spouses. Schwartz appealed to the Third Circuit, and the Third Circuit asked the New Jersey Supreme Court for its views. The Court did not establish a bright-line rule, but stated that liability could be established on a case-by-case basis by analyzing a number of factors. Factors to be taken into account include the employee’s relationship to the exposed individual, the foreseeability of the individual’s exposure, and the toxicity of the substance in question.

Philadelphia Employment Lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green Offer Exceptional Legal Guidance 

The Philadelphia employment lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green keep up-to-the-minute on employment issues that matter to our clients. To discuss your case, call 215-574-0600 or contact us online.