Clark & Krevsky LLC
Toll Free: 888-593-6283
Local: 717-303-3764
Fighting for your Employment Right
With more than 50 years of combined experience, we’re here for you.

Pennsylvania Employment Law Blog

Millions recovered by ERISA enforcement efforts

The Employee Benefits Security Administration, or EBSA, restored more than $1.1 billion in employee benefits in 2017. That money was put back into health, disability and retirement plans meant to benefit Pennsylvania residents and other American workers. Of the money restored to such plans, $326.7 million was for vested employees in defined benefit plans who had been let go by their employers. Overall, $682.3 million was recovered at the close of 1,114 civil investigations.

Money was also returned to employees who worked for companies that terminated their benefit plan. Through the Abandoned Plan Program, $27.9 million was returned to workers from 586 companies. Another $418.7 million was recovered through an informal complaint process. In addition to recovering money, the EBSA worked to indict 113 people in fiscal year 2017. Those individuals held a variety of roles such as plan administrators or service providers.

The role of corporate culture in addressing sexual harassment

Employers in Pennsylvania and around the country are encouraged to put procedures into place that make it easy for workers to report sexual harassment, but research suggests that this type of policy is only successful when workplace cultures are open to dealing with these issues. Most companies stress the importance of addressing discrimination and harassment during training or orientation periods, but researchers from the Society of Human Resource Management discovered that only about a quarter of the workers who witness or are the victims of sexual harassment report what they have seen or experienced.

According to SHRM, workers are often reluctant to report sexual harassment because they are concerned about escalating the situation and setting an unstoppable series of events into motion. They also worry that speaking up lead to unintended consequences and damage workplace morale. The research suggests that these reservations can be particularly strong when the harasser is a respected or trusted figure.

Consequences of violating the ADA

Employees in Pennsylvania or anywhere else in the United States have a right to talk to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). As a general rule, employers are not allowed to take any actions that may chill an employee's willingness to report discrimination within an organization. This may mean that employers are not allowed to send messages from in-house counsel to employees informing them about actions involving the EEOC.

In a case involving a staffing services company, this exact scenario occurred. A suit brought by the EEOC alleges that the company disclosed the employee's name as well as his particular disability in the letter. According to the lawsuit, it violated the interference provision of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The company claimed that it sent the letter to alert employees that the EEOC may contact them.

Reasons harassment victims may stay silent

According to a survey from CareerBuilder, 12 percent of respondents said that they were victims of sexual harassment on the job. However, 72 percent of those who claimed to have experienced such behavior did not report it. Furthermore, 54 percent of those who claimed to be victims of workplace sexual harassment did not confront their abuser. There are many reasons why workers in Pennsylvania and around the country choose not to report what happened to them.

For instance, victims believed that they would be perceived as causing trouble if they spoke up. They also thought that they could lose their job or were scared that the allegations would be dismissed as a he-said/she-said situation. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says that those who feel victimized should first talk to the offender if possible. Incidents of sexual or other harassment should be documented with names of the offender and any witnesses being made part of any complaint raised.

Movie to implement sexual harassment guidelines

Pennsylvania fans of superhero films might be interested to know that the second movie in the "Wonder Woman" series is set to be the first to adhere to new sexual harassment guidelines. The Producers Guild of America released the guidelines on January 19, and they provide a number of recommendations for the treatment of personnel during film and television production. The PGA has more than 8,000 members.

The PGA recommends that film productions offer a range of procedures for reporting sexual harassment, comply with state and federal laws and make in-person sexual harassment training available for all crew and cast members at the beginning of the production. For ongoing productions, the PGA recommends in-person training at the beginning of a new season. The recommendations provide protocols for producers, witnesses and victims to follow when reporting or dealing with claims of sexual harassment.

Polls look at experiences of workplace sexual harassment

While a number of women face harassment in the workplace, the design of polls may cause the percentages reporting harassment to differ. Survey timing as well as the wording, placement and order of questions may all account for differing answers. Furthermore, some women are uncomfortable answering questions about harassment. Pennsylvania employees may not always have the same ideas about what constitutes workplace harassment.

For example, a poll taken by the Barna Group in October 2017 found that 86 percent of women but only 70 percent of men felt that sexual comments about a person's body or looks was harassment. Texts or emails that were sexually explicit were regarded as harassment by 83 percent of women but 69 percent of men. Staring, whistling or winking was considered to be harassment by fewer than 33 percent of men or women. However, a poll from Economist/YouGov found that just 38 percent of men thought looking at a woman's breasts constituted harassment compared to 55 percent of women.

Bartending and sexual harassment

Bartenders in Pennsylvania and throughout the U.S. experience the third-highest rate of nonfatal workplace violence. Even through they may be frequently subject to sexual harassment, some bartenders feel like they just have to deal with it. Many bars and clubs offer little formal training to staff. In some cases, they simply refer to the employee handbook or offer no guidance at all.

However, research shows that teaching bystanders to get involved when they see misconduct occurring can be effective in preventing sexual harassment. A program called Safe Bars teaches both patrons and bartenders how to diffuse situations in which a person may feel uncomfortable. According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol is not necessarily the cause of harassment in bars. However, booze can often be a factor in its occurrence.

Flight attendants file discrimination lawsuit against Delta

Pennsylvania residents might be interested to learn that four flight attendants have filed a lawsuit against Delta Airlines, alleging that the airline engages in anti-Jewish and anti-Semitic behavior. The plaintiffs state that the airline has a pattern of intentional discrimination against both employees and passengers who are Jewish. Two of the flight attendants are described as having an ethnic background that is Jewish/Hebrew/Israeli while the other two say they were disciplined because of their associations with others of that background.

One flight attendant says that she was granted leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act and that the airline fired her because she was Jewish and not because she did not turn up for work as the airline claims. One non-Jewish attendant says that she faced suspension without pay and demotion after she helped a Jewish friend. Another says the same thing happened to her after she shared her corporate travel pass with a Jewish friend.

All parents may be eligible for FMLA leave

Mothers in Pennsylvania and elsewhere may be entitled to take FMLA leave during a pregnancy or after giving birth. However, fathers are also generally entitled to take the same unpaid leave to care for a newborn child or the child's mother. Eligible fathers may take FMLA leave even if the mother also takes leave. Those who work for covered employers are eligible for such time off.

A covered employer in the private sector is one that has 50 or more employees for more than 20 weeks in the past calendar year. Those who work in elementary or secondary schools are exempt no matter how many employees the school has. The same is true for those who work for government agencies. The employee must work for 1,250 hours over a 12-month period to be eligible to take FMLA leave. According to the National Compensation Survey (NCS), 14 percent of civilian workers had access to paid family leave.

Discrimination still common in American workplaces

According to an analysis of data provided by the Pew Research Center, 42 percent of women who work in the U.S. say they have faced gender discrimination on the job. Pennsylvania readers may be aware of the large number of sexual misconduct allegations that arose during the latter part of 2017 in the entertainment industry, politics and other arenas. The Pew survey was conducted earlier in the year and found that women were nearly twice as likely as men to say they have experienced gender discrimination at work.

The survey covered eight specific types of gender discrimination, including income disparity, slights at work, receiving less support and being passed over for assignments. The survey was conducted between July 11 and Aug. 10 and included responses from 4,914 individuals, 4,702 of whom were employed at least part-time. Twenty-five percent of working women said they have earned less money than a male peer for performance of the same job. Only 5 percent of men said a female peer had been paid more than them for the same work.