5 Misconceptions about Pennsylvania and Philadelphia Employment Laws

employment lawMany people, who are victims of illegal discrimination and other illegal employment actions in Pennsylvania or New Jersey, wrongly assume that they cannot prevail legally. They may be unaware of all of the federal, state, and local laws that protect them. They may assume that in an at-will employment environment, their only option is accepting the employer’s terms or looking for another job.

This misconception comes from a mistaken belief that the power balance lies totally in the favor of the employer. Though the employer has the right to make business-related decisions based on its legitimate financial concerns, business owners and managers are prohibited from engaging in many illegal discrimination, harassment, and wage and benefit practices. For example, federal laws make it illegal for most employers to fire an employee based on race, gender, national origin, disability, religion, genetic information, age, if the employee is at least 40 years of age, pregnancy, or a medical condition relating to the pregnancy.

If you are facing damaging actions at work, consult with experienced Philadelphia employment law attorneys about your rights.

1. Because Pennsylvania has no law against sexual-orientation discrimination, LGBT workers are unprotected.

However, Philadelphia has its own laws prohibiting this type of discrimination. These laws provide similar protections to LGBT workers in Philadelphia that LGBT workers enjoy in states that prohibit this type of discrimination.

2. Employment contracts can prevent employees from suing for wrongful termination

No employment contract can supersede the law. Even if a contract contains language stating the employee cannot sue, a court can hold that provision to be unenforceable and against public policy.A few examples are being fired for refusing to take a lie detector test, refusing to commit an illegal act such as falsify insurance claims or lie to governmental auditors, reporting working conditions that do not meet federal or state health or safety rules or retaliation against the employee for asserting rights legally protected under federal or state laws. Skilled attorneys at Pozzuolo Rodden can review any employment contract and determine enforceability.

3. Adverse actions against minority-group members are illegal

Adverse actions against minorities are only illegal if they are taken because the person is a minority. For example, if a company fails to promote a minority member because of financial reasons or because the employee failed to meet a performance objective, that action does not constitute an actionable claim.

4. An employee can be terminated for making health-insurance claims

Many employees fear that if they file claims against their employer’s health insurance policies, their employer will discover they have an expensive illness and terminate them. This constitutes illegal action under many laws, including discrimination laws, ERISA, and HIPAA.

5. The employment handbook guidelines are optional

The employment handbook is a contract between the employee and employer. The employee must abide by what is in the handbook in order to work at the company; however, the employer must also abide by its own provisions. For example, if an employer’s handbook declares that it has zero tolerance for LGBT discrimination and an employee is discriminated against on that basis, the employee had an actionable claim regardless of the laws in that jurisdiction. The handbook constitutes a contract.