NEWS

Stay up to date on news at our Firm

and the latest developments in employment law.

Is An Accommodation Always Required?

Not always, according to a recent opinion from the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. Jeffrey Jessup sued Barnes Group, Inc. under the ADA and claimed that the employer did not provide a reasonable accommodation for his disability. Unfortunately for Mr. Jessup, he repeatedly claimed that he was totally disabled from work due to his anxiety and depression. The District Court and the Court of Appeals both found that this was an admission that there was no reasonable accommodation that could help Mr. Jessup perform his job. As such, the courts determined that Mr. Jessup was no longer qualified for his position and his employer was free to terminate his employment. It is unclear from the court’s opinion whether Mr. Jessup sought a finite period of additional medical leave as a reasonable accommodation. Had he done so, the outcome may have been different. Many employees find themselves totally unable to work for a period of time because of their disabilities. Both the EEOC and many courts have held that under such circumstances, a brief period of medical leave should be considered as a possible reasonable accommodation. This case is a good reminder why employees with disabilities who need a reasonable accommodation should consult with an experienced employment lawyer for help.

Sexual Harassment Lawyer

It is against the law to harass someone (an applicant or employee) because of that person’s sex. Harassment can include sexual harassment or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.

Harassment does not have to be of a sexual nature, however, and can include offensive remarks about a person’s sex. For example, it is illegal to harass a woman by making offensive comments about women in general.

Both victim and the harasser can be either a woman or a man, and the victim and harasser can be the same sex.

Although the law doesn’t prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that are not very serious, harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted).

The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a client or customer.

If you have experienced sexual harassment at work, call a sexual harassment attorney for help. We have represented many victims of sexual harassment and will fight for you.

We help whistleblowers

Companies that do business with the government are held to the highest ethical standards. Claims for taxpayer funds may not be payable if the employer has failed to comply with applicable regulations or contract provisions. To fight back against fraudsters, Congress passed a powerful law called the False Claims Act. The False Claims Act rewards employees who come forward with information about fraud on federal or state taxpayers. If your company has contracts with the federal or state government, or if it submits claims to any federal or state program, and if you are aware of any corporate shenanigans that caused the government to pay claims it did not owe, we want to hear from you. Call 412-258-2250 today.

Sexual harassment at work

We have seen a significant increase recently in sexual harassment cases involving senior corporate executives. When sexual harassment is perpetrated by a member of the C-Suite (for example, the CEO, COO, President, Owner or another senior corporate executive), liability is automatic and strict. This is because the law draws no distinction between the corporate entity and the executive officers who control it for purposes of sexual harassment liability. Such officers are considered the corporation’s proxy or alter-ego. If you have been sexually harassed or assaulted by a senior corporate officer at work, you may have important rights under the law. Call us today at 412-258-2250 for a consultation.

Pittsburgh employment lawyer Charles A. Lamberton. Representing employees in discrimination, retaliation, sexual harassment and wrongful termination cases for more than 20 years. High end representation for high end cases and clients. Contact us today.

Unemployment benefits in Pennsylvania

Governor Tom Wolf announced today the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry (L&I) is implementing new federal unemployment compensation benefits provided by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The COVID-19 relief package temporarily provides an additional $600 per week, makes self-employed, independent contractors and gig workers eligible for benefits and extends unemployment compensation (UC) benefits for an additional 13 weeks.

The federal benefits are in addition to Pennsylvania’s regular unemployment benefit, which is about half of a person’s full-time weekly income up to $572 per week for 26 weeks.

Additional $600 Per Week
As part of the CARES Act, unemployment benefits are being expanded to provide an additional $600 per week beginning the week ending April 4, 2020, through the week ending July 25, 2020. This temporary emergency increase in benefits is referred to as the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program.

Today, L&I issued the first $600 payments. All eligible claimants that filed biweekly claims for the week ending April 4 and who received their regular UC payment should expect to see the additional money either Tuesday or Wednesday of next week. For other eligible claimants who have not yet received a regular UC payment, they will receive the extra $600 the week after receiving their first UC payment.

It is very important to note that anyone who currently has federal withholding tax taken out of their benefits will see the same 10% reduction in the FPUC payment, resulting in a $540 payment. For information about changing your withholding election, visit L&I’s Taxes on Benefits page.

The $600 is paid separately from the biweekly UC benefit, and residents do not need to apply.

Visit the department’s FPUC frequently asked questions for more information.

Self-employed, Contractors or Gig Economy Workers
The CARES Act also temporarily makes unemployment compensation available to self-employed, independent contractors, gig economy workers, and others not normally eligible for the benefit. The program is referred to as Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). These workers cannot apply through the department’s UC online system at this time. The U.S. Department of Labor requires that PUA be tracked separately from regular UC. For this reason, Pennsylvania must build a new online platform to process PUA benefits.

Eligible individuals should be able to start applying for PUA benefits within the next two weeks. Eligible claimants will receive backdated payments to January 27, 2020, or the first week they were unable to work due to COVID-19, whichever of the two dates is later. The PUA benefit will end December 31, 2020. The department will announce when the PUA benefit application is available.

Visit L&I’s PUA frequently asked questions for more information.

13-Week Benefit Extension
The CARES Act provides an additional 13 weeks of unemployment compensation, including for workers who exhaust their regular unemployment benefits. Claimants will be eligible for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) from the week beginning March 29, 2020, through the end of the year. The department is awaiting additional federal guidance about the program and will provide an update when information is available.

Additional Information for workers impacted by COVID-19:

On March 27, Governor Tom Wolf signed a law that makes applying for unemployment compensation easier to access by waiving the one-week waiting period to file, as well as the job search and work registration requirements, among other changes.

Visit the commonwealth’s Responding to COVID-19 guide for the latest guidance and resources for Pennsylvanians or the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s dedicated coronavirus webpage for the most up-to-date information regarding COVID-19.

 

Huge court win for #MeToo

In Minarsky v. Susquehanna County, 2018 WL 3234243 (3d Cir. July 3, 2018), the Third Circuit reversed summary judgment for the employer because a jury could find that the sexual harassment victim was reasonable in not reporting the harassment for four years.  In a footnote that will be cited for years to come, the Court said:

This appeal comes to us in the midst of national news regarding a veritable firestorm of allegations of rampant sexual misconduct that has been closeted for years, not reported by the victims. It has come to light, years later, that people in positions of power and celebrity have exploited their authority to make unwanted sexual advances. In many such instances, the harasser wielded control over the harassed individual’s employment or work environment. In nearly all of the instances, the victims asserted a plausible fear of serious adverse consequences had they spoken up at the time that the conduct occurred. While the policy underlying Faragher-Ellerth places the onus on the harassed employee to report her harasser, and would fault her for not calling out this conduct so as to prevent it, a jury could conclude that the employee’s non-reporting was understandable, perhaps even reasonable. That is, there may be a certain fallacy that underlies the notion that reporting sexual misconduct will end it. Victims do not always view it in this way. Instead, they anticipate negative consequences or fear that the harassers will face no reprimand; thus, more often than not, victims choose not to report the harassment.

Recent news articles report that studies have shown that not only is sex-based harassment in the workplace pervasive, but also the failure to report is widespread. Nearly one-third of American women have experienced unwanted sexual advances from male coworkers, and nearly a quarter of American women have experienced such advances from men who had influence over the conditions of their employment, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll from October of 2017. Most all of the women who experienced harassment report that the male harassers faced no consequences. ABC News/Washington Post, Unwanted Sexual Advances: Not Just a Hollywood Story (Oct. 17, 2017), www.langerresearch.com/wp-content/uploads/…

Additionally, three out of four women who have been harassed fail to report it. A 2016 Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Select Task Force study found that approximately 75 percent of those who experienced harassment never reported it or filed a complaint, but instead would “avoid the harasser, deny or downplay the gravity of the situation, or attempt to ignore, forget, or endure the behavior.” EEOC Select Task Force, Harassment in the Workplace, at v (June 2016), www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/task_force/harassment/upload/… Those employees who faced harassing behavior did not report this experience “because they fear[ed] disbelief of their claim, inaction on their claim, blame, or social or professional retaliation.” Id.; see also Stefanie Johnson, et al., Why We Fail to Report Sexual Harassment, Harvard Business Review (Oct. 4, 2016), hbr.org/2016/10/why-we-fail-to-report-sexual-harassment (women do not report harassment because of retaliation fears, the bystander effect, and male-dominated work environments).

We litigate sexual harassment and assault cases

Women now make up about half the U.S. workforce, yet remain underrepresented in management and in the C-suite. With smartphones, text messages, social media, there are more ways than ever for supervisors and co-workers to sexually harass women at work (and even outside of work). If you or someone you know has been sexually harassed or sexually assaulted by anyone connected with your work, we want to know about it. Call 412-258-2250 for a free, confidential consultation, text us at 412-498-4120 or email us at [email protected] Don’t delay. There are deadlines for taking action and after which you could lose your legal rights.

 

What to do about sexual harassment at work

SexharContact legal counsel immediately.  Call us at 412-258-2250 or email us at [email protected]

Check to see if your employer has an anti-harassment policy. This may be on the employer’s website. If it’s not, check your employee handbook. Finally, you can ask any supervisor (it does not have to be your supervisor) or someone in Human Resources (if your employer has an HR department) whether there is an anti-harassment policy and if so, to give you a copy.

If there is a policy, follow the steps in the policy. The policy should give you various options for reporting the harassment, including the option of filing a complaint.

If there is no policy, talk with a supervisor. You can talk with your own supervisor, the supervisor of the person who is harassing you, or any supervisor in the organization. Explain what has happened and ask for that person’s help in getting the behavior to stop.

The law protects you from retaliation (punishment) for complaining about harassment. You have a right to report harassment, participate in a harassment investigation or lawsuit, or oppose harassment, without being retaliated against for doing so.

You always have an option of filing a charge of discrimination with the EEOC to complain about the harassment. There are specific time limits for filing a charge (180 or 300 days, depending on where you work), so contact EEOC promptly. See EEOC’s How to File a Charge of Employment Discrimination. You can also meet with EEOC to discuss your situation and your options. This conversation is confidential. Note: federal employees and job applicants have a different complaint process and different time limits.

CONTACT US

LAMBERTON LAW FIRM, LLC
707 GRANT STREET
1705 GULF TOWER
PITTSBURGH, PA 15219

412-258-2250 | OFFICE DIRECT
412-498-4120 | CELL
412-258-2249 | FAX

[email protected]


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