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Features Court Cases in the News

Clark Law Group

A state-by-state review of court cases pertaining to workplace rights.

Select your state from the map below or from this list. (If your state does not have any court cases, then the page will not scroll down when you click on the state.)


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Pennsylvania

No class-action suit for Darden restaurant staff, U.S. judge rules

Source: Barbara Liston, Reuters
Date: September 5, 2014

A U.S. judge has ruled that food servers and bartenders employed by Darden Restaurants Inc, which owns chains including Olive Garden, the Capital Grille and LongHorn Steakhouse, cannot sue the company as a group for alleged wage violations.

EEOC sues employer for demanding health care details for worker absences

Source: Judy Greenwald, BusinessInsurance.com
Date: July 28, 2014

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed suit against a Pennsylvania construction equipment supplier, charging that it violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by improperly demanding disability-related information from its workers and subjecting them to progressive disciplinary measures if they refused to comply.

Labor Department official calls for more Pa. judges to handle miner's appeals

Source: Tracie Mauriello, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Date: July 22, 2014

Pittsburgh needs three more administrative law judges to reduce backlog and to handle appeals being re-filed by miners and their widows, Deputy Labor Secretary Chris Lu testified this morning.

Hussey Copper To Pay $85,000 To Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Lawsuit

Source: EEOC, EEOC
Date: February 14, 2011

The EEOC had charged that Hussey Copper, Ltd. unlawfully refused to hire a job applicant because of his record of a disability and because they regarded him as disabled.

Noose Found In Locker Of Man Who Filed FDNY Discrimination Lawsuit

Source: Huffington Post, Huffington Post
Date: February 8, 2011

Seabrook, and four other minority electricians for the FDNY, filed complaints with the New York State Division of Human Rights, alleging the Fire Department overlooks minority electricians for overtime opportunities and promotions.

National Guardsman Awarded $600,000 in Hiring Bias Case Against Oldham

Source: Andrew Wolfson, Courier Journal
Date: February 3, 2011

...the department learned that Gentry served in the Kentucky National Guard and might be facing deployment soon - and it withdrew the offer and gave the job to someone else.

EEOC Sues Amtrak for Gender Bias, Retaliation

Source: Jonathan Stempel, Reuters
Date: February 2, 2011

Amtrak was accused in a lawsuit by the EEOC of gender bias for discriminating against a female employee in pay and work assignments, and retaliating against her when she complained.

Kentucky: Discrimination Suit Is Settled at University

Source: AP, New York Times
Date: January 19, 2011

The university has agreed to pay $125,000 to Martin Gaskell in exchange for his dropping a federal religious discrimination suit.

Judge Dismisses Steelworkers' Racial Harassment Lawsuit

Source: Brian Bowling, Pittsburgh Tribune
Date: January 13, 2011

Twice someone left a noose near their work areas and once someone left a clothesline tied with a common knot.

Trial Set for Firing Over Use of 'N' Word

Source: Michael Klein, Philadelphia Inquirer
Date: January 3, 2011

A federal jury will be asked to decide whether it is acceptable for an African American person, but not a white person, to use the "n" word in a workplace.

National Labor Relations Board Backs Medic Fired Over Facebook Post

Source: Leo Standora, New York Daily News
Date: November 9, 2010

The National Labor Relations Board is squaring off against a private ambulance company that fired an employee who bad-mouthed a boss on Facebook.

U.S. Supreme Court Faces Word Puzzle in Job Bias Case

Source: Marcia Coyle, Law.com
Date: October 14, 2010

The Supreme Court on Wednesday wrestled with the meaning of the word "file" in a job retaliation case with potentially huge ramifications for workers who allege wage-and-hour violations by their employers.

PA Distirct Pays 2 Teachers $170K in Bias Suit

Source: AP, Centre Daily Times
Date: October 13, 2010

A Pittsburgh-area school district will pay a $170,000 settlement to two male teachers who claimed newly hired male teachers were paid less than their female counterparts

California: State Furloughs Are Legal, Court Rules

Source: Malia Wollan, New York Times
Date: October 5, 2010

In a blow to state worker unions, the State Supreme Court ruled Monday that mandatory furloughs of state employees were legal.

Federal Appeals Court Strikes Down Hazleton's Immigration Ordinances

Source: Larry King, Philadelphia Inquirer
Date: September 10, 2010

In a high-profile Pennsylvania case that helped spark the ongoing national debate over immigration policy, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday that the City of Hazleton has no right to punish businesses or landlords who hire or rent to illegal immigrants.

U.S. appeals court: Pa. prison can ban Muslim scarf

Source: AP, USA Today
Date: August 3, 2010

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Prison officials can ban employees from wearing religious headscarves out of concerns they pose a safety risk, a U.S. appeals court in Philadelphia ruled Monday in a split 2-1 decision.

Knouse Foods Agrees to Pay $300,000 To Settle EEOC Harassment and Retaliation Lawsuit

Source: Press Release, EEOC
Date: July 27, 2010

HARRISBURG, Pa. - A major farm growers' cooperative which owns the Musselman Company agreed to pay $300,000 to a class of women and furnish significant remedial relief to settle a federal harassment and retaliation lawsuit, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today.

3rd Circuit Tosses Sex Bias Lawsuit by Law Firm Shareholder

Source: Shannon P. Duffy, Law.com
Date: July 20, 2010

A woman lawyer cannot sue her firm for sex discrimination if her status as a shareholder and director gives her the ability to participate in firm governance and a percentage of firm profits, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled.

Obama administration walks tricky political line on gay marriage ban

Source: Linda Feldman, Christian Science Monitor
Date: July 13, 2010

President Obama has pledged to overturn the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which bars the federal government from recognizing gay marriage. But his Justice Department is defending the law's constitutionality in court.

9th Circuit Lifts Attorney Sanctions in FedEx Discrimination Case

Source: Dan Levine, Law.com
Date: June 22, 2010

San Francisco plaintiffs lawyer Waukeen McCoy wasn't afforded due process protections when a federal judge hit him with $25,000 in sanctions, according to a ruling from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

No Labor Violations For Jon & Kate + 8

Source: Fox Philly, Fox Philly
Date: April 15, 2010

Pennsylvania State Rep. Tom Murt held a public hearing Wednesday in Montgomery County on the state's child labor laws.

Abercrombie & Fitch Draws EEOC Complaint for Banning Islamic Head Scarf

Source: Amanda Bronstad, Law.com
Date: March 1, 2010

The Council on American-Islamic Relations has filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging racial discrimination by Abercrombie & Fitch Stores Inc. after a manager fired a Muslim employee who refused to remove her hijab, or head scarf.

UPS Freight to Pay $46,000 to Settle EEOC Religious Discrimination Lawsuit

Source: EEOC, EEOC
Date: February 18, 2010

UPS Freight, one of the one of the nation's largest trucking companies, will pay $46,000 and provide equitable relief to resolve a religious discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

Do Lawyers Have 1st Amendment Right to Interview Jurors? 10th Circuit Says Maybe

Source: Molly McDonough, American Bar Association Journal
Date: February 11, 2010

In a novel case sure to catch the attention of trial lawyers and researchers, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals says that attorneys may have a First Amendment right to interview jurors involved in trials in which they did not participate.

Boeing Settles Discrimination Lawsuits at Mesa Plant

Source: The Mesa Republic, AZ Central
Date: February 2, 2010

The Boeing Company has agreed to pay $380,000 and administer what the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission describes as "far-reaching injunctive measures" to settle two lawsuits brought by the federal agency.

UPDATE Vanguard Fund Firm Settles EEOC Racial Bias Suit

Source: Jonathan Stempel, Reuters
Date: January 18, 2010

Vanguard Group Inc, one of the largest mutual fund companies, agreed to pay $300,000 to settle a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission lawsuit accusing it of racial bias in hiring.

Job Bias Charges Approach Record High in Fiscal Year 2009, EEOC Reports

Source: EEOC, EEOC
Date: January 7, 2010

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today announced that 93,277 workplace discrimination charges were filed with the federal agency nationwide during Fiscal Year (FY) 2009, the second highest level ever, and monetary relief obtained for victims totaled over $376 million.

Saks Hit With Unfair Labor Charge

Source: Vanessa O-Connell, Wall Street Journal
Date: January 6, 2010

A department store union filed an unfair labor practice charge against Saks Inc.

PetSmart Will Pay $125,000 to Settle EEOC Sexual Harassment and Retaliation Lawsuit

Source: Kansas City InfoZine, Kansas City InfoZine
Date: August 20, 2009

PetSmart, Inc., the nation's leading retailer of services and products for pets, will pay $125,000 and furnish significant equitable relief to resolve a federal sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employ ment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced.

Demolition Specialists: The Supreme Court's 2008/2009 Term

Source: Nan Aron, The Huffington Post
Date: July 10, 2009

The 2008-2009 term was certainly a busy one for the Supreme Court. It decided 79 cases, 23 of which, according to SCOTUSblog, were split 5-4.

Schott North America, Inc. to Pay $1.45 Million to Settle EEOC Sex Bias Suit

Source: EEOC, EEOC
Date: June 11, 2009

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today announced a major settlement of a sex discrimination lawsuit for $1,450,000 and significant equitable relief against Schott North America, a multinational developer and manufacturer of special glass and specialty materials, components and systems, based in Elmsford, N.Y.

Lifecare Hospitals of Pittsburgh Will Pay $100,000 for Firing Employee Because of Cancer

Source: EEOC, EEOC
Date: May 13, 2009

A Pittsburgh hospital has agreed to pay $100,000 and furnish other equitable relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. The EEOC had charged the hospital with firing an employee because she had cancer.

Latest noncompete trends include high-tech sleuthing

Source: Adam Stone, Philadelphia Business Journal
Date: September 8, 2008

Cozen O'Connor attorney David Walton recently won a $7 million award for a client based on evidence that wasn't there. It's called computer forensics and it's the next big thing in noncompete clauses. Employers who ask new workers to sign noncompete documents now can dig deep into e-mail and other records to discover whether trade secrets have been swiped on the way out the door.

Jury Awards Former Tunnel Worker $735,000 in Discrimination Case

Source: John Eligon, New York Times
Date: July 30, 2008

A federal jury has awarded more than $700,000 to a former Queens-Midtown Tunnel employee who said his bosses denied him a promotion and penalized him for taking sick days because he was Jewish, according to lawyers for the employee.

California Court Awards Starbucks Baristas $105 Million in Tip Dispute

Source: Vikas Bajaj, New York Times
Date: March 21, 2008

A court in California awarded baristas at Starbucks cafes in California $105 million on Thursday, ruling that the company had wrongly allowed supervisors to share in tips. The judgment by Judge Patricia Y. Cowett of California Superior Court in San Diego could have broader ramifications for the restaurant industry in California and around the country.

Religious bias alleged in EEOC complaint against ConocoPhillips

Source: Associated Press, Newsday
Date: December 23, 2007

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a religious discrimination lawsuit against ConocoPhillips on behalf of a worker at its Bayway Refinery who claims his request for a schedule change so he could attend church on Sunday mornings was refused.

Hannaberry Electric settles age bias lawsuit

Source: Matt Birkbeck, The Morning Call
Date: January 1, 2008

A Pennsylvania company alleged to have systematically fired older workers agreed to pay $156,000 to settle an age discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

UPS settles case alleging discrimination

Source: Michael Hinkelman, Philadelphia Daily News
Date: December 12, 2006

UPS has agreed to pay a man $100,000 to settle a disability discrimination case brought on his behalf by the U.S. EEOC. Eugenio D'Oliveira worked as a sorter/loader at UPS' Horsham center in Montgomery County and allegedly was fired in July 2004, after his supervisor complained about a degenerative eye disease that D'Oliveira had contracted.

Wal-Mart told to pay $78 million

Source: Steven Greenhouse, New York Times
Date: October 16, 2006

A jury in Philadelphia said yesterday that Wal-Mart must pay $78 million to its current and former Pennsylvania employees for not paying them when they worked through rest breaks and worked off the clock. Lawyers who brought the class action on behalf of 187,000 workers applauded the verdict and said they expected the judge to soon order Wal-Mart to pay $62 million more in damages because the jury had also found that Wal-Mart acted in bad faith. The verdict is a blow to Wal-Mart because it comes as the company has sought to portray itself as a generous law-abiding employer in the face of dozens of lawsuits accusing it of not paying employees for missed breaks and off-the-clock labor.

Sara Lee sued over severance

Source: James McNair, Cincinnati Enquirer
Date: October 4, 2006

When employees of Sara Lee were laid off in a reorganization announced last year, they could find some solace in a severance check. Not Ava Smith-Thompson. She lost her job when Sara Lee began consolidating operations. She was offered severance pay--but only if she would sign papers promising not to file a complaint with the U.S. EEOC. In a newly filed lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati, the commission said the waiver requirement violated all of the federal laws banning employment discrimination. The agency said Sara Lee unlawfully withheld severance pay from employees who might have refused to sign the waiver.

Abercrombie settles suit

Source: Leslie Earnest, Los Angeles Times
Date: January 14, 2006

Clothing seller Abercrombie & Fitch has agreed to pay as much as $2 million to settle a lawsuit filed on behalf of more than 250 California store managers who claimed that they were denied overtime pay. It was the latest in a string of lawsuits that have rippled through the service industry in recent years after California toughened its wage standards beyond what federal rules allow. Employers that apply federal standards to California workers often find themselves in trouble, labor experts say. Oakland civil rights attorney Brad Seligman said employers were getting the message. "I think as companies become more rigorous in ensuring compliance with overtime and labor requirements you will see less litigation," Seligman said.

Pa. suit on Wal-Mart off-clock work

Source: Maryclaire Dale, Associated Press, Philadelphia Inquirer
Date: January 12, 2006

A judge approved a class-action lawsuit against Wal-Mart by employees in Pennsylvania who say the company pressured them to work off the clock, claims that mirror those in suits filed in other states. A California jury last month awarded Wal-Mart workers $172 million for illegally denied lunch breaks, while Wal-Mart settled a similar Colorado case for $50 million. In Pennsylvania, the lead plaintiff's suit alleges she worked through breaks and after quitting time--eight to 12 unpaid hours a month, on average--to meet work demands. The class could include nearly 150,000 current or former employees who worked at a Wal-Mart or Sam's Club in the state since March 19, 1998.

In novel tactic, Cintas workers sue unions

Source: Kris Maher, Wall Street Journal, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Date: December 27, 2005

When a union organizer showed up unexpectedly at Elizabeth Pichler's Bethlehem, Pa., home on a cold Saturday afternoon in February 2004, she shut the front door on him. A handful of [her Cintas Corp.] co-workers were also annoyed about visits to their homes and complained to their managers. They eventually learned that the union had traced their home addresses from license plates in the company parking lot. That made them angry enough to meet with lawyers provided by the company and then file a suit alleging their privacy rights had been violated. It's highly unusual for workers to bring a lawsuit against a union trying to organize, and the case is threatening to send ripples through the labor movement.

Ruling on health benefits

Source: Associated Press, New York Times
Date: September 29, 2005

Reversing her earlier decision, a federal judge ruled that companies may offer younger retirees better health care benefits than they give older retirees who qualify for Medicare. The AARP sued over the rule change proposed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on the ground that unequal health packages amount to age discrimination. Judge Anita B. Brody of United States District Court in Philadelphia initially agreed, granting an injunction in March that barred the federal agency from adopting the rule. However, a recent Supreme Court ruling in an unrelated case compelled her to change course, she said in a ruling Tuesday.

Caremark to settle whistle-blower suit

Source: Milt Freudenheim, New York Times
Date: September 9, 2005

Caremark Rx, the prescription drug plan manager, agreed yesterday to pay $137.5 million to settle federal lawsuits filed by whistle-blowers that accused a company it acquired in 2003 of improper dealings with pharmaceutical manufacturers. The lawsuits said that the acquired company, AdvancePCS, accepted kickbacks from drug makers to promote their products over those of rivals under contracts with government programs including the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program, the Mail Handlers Health Benefit Program and Medicare health maintenance plans.

Feds allege racism at Conectiv site

Source: Kurt Bresswein, Express Times
Date: July 18, 2005

A hangman's noose, racist graffiti and spoken slurs created a "hotbed" of harassment during construction of the Conectiv power plant on former Bethlehem Steel land, according to a federal lawsuit. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed the lawsuit on behalf of two black men from Allentown and a third man from the Poconos. Conectiv Bethlehem Generation, a subsidiary of Wilmington, Del.-based Conectiv, operates the 1,100-megawatt natural gas- and oil-fired plant on 62 acres of the Bethlehem Commerce Center on Applebutter Road, at the Bethlehem and Lower Saucon Township border. The plant opened in November 2002 and was finished in 2003.

EEOC rule on retiree health care rejected

Source: David B. Caruso, Associated Press, Seattle Times
Date: March 31, 2005

A federal judge yesterday barred the government from allowing companies to provide younger retirees with better health-care benefits than they give older ones who qualify for Medicare. The AARP sued to block the proposed rule change, saying giving differing packages to the young and the old amounts to age discrimination. In her finding in favor of the AARP, U.S. District Judge Anita Brody said the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission lacked the power to make the change. The EEOC had proposed exempting retiree health plans from age-discrimination rules as part of an attempt to slow the trend of companies eliminating retiree health benefits.

Judge blocks rule allowing companies to cut benefits when retirees reach Medicare age

Source: Robert Pear, New York Times
Date: March 31, 2005

A federal district judge on Wednesday blocked a Bush administration rule that would have allowed employers to reduce or eliminate health benefits for retirees when they reach age 65 and become eligible for Medicare. Ten million retirees could have had benefits cut under the rule, which was adopted last April by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The commission argued that employers were more likely to continue providing health benefits to retirees under 65 if they were allowed to reduce or eliminate benefits for those 65 and older. AARP, the main plaintiff in the case, rejected that argument. It said the rule would accelerate the erosion of retiree health benefits, a trend that has been evident for more than a decade.

AARP sues to protect health care benefits

Source: Associated Press, Forbes
Date: February 4, 2005

The nation's largest advocacy group for older Americans asked a federal court Friday to block the government from making a policy change that would allow companies to slash health benefits for retirees when they become eligible for Medicare. The AARP claimed in a suit filed in Philadelphia that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission would overstep its authority if it gave final approval to rules exempting retiree health benefits from federal age discrimination law. The new rule would allow companies to reduce or eliminate benefits to retirees once they turned 65 and qualified for the federal Medicare health program. A U.S. District Court judge issued an order late Friday afternoon blocking the EEOC from implementing any rule change for at least 60 days while the suit makes its way through the courts.

'Jews for Jesus' Concertgoer Loses Employment Suit Against Jewish Center

Source: Shannon P. Duffy, Law.com
Date: December 21, 2004

Finding Title VII's exemption for religious institutions "is not limited to facilities where prayer takes place," a magistrate judge has dismissed a suit against a Jewish community center brought by an evangelical Christian who claims she was fired because she attended a "Jews for Jesus" concert. In his 15-page opinion in LeBoon v. Lancaster Jewish Community Center, U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacob P. Hart rejected the plaintiff's argument that the LJCC is not entitled to the exemption because its purpose is "essentially secular," and it is not affiliated with any synagogue. Instead, Hart found that courts have taken a broader view of the exemption, extending it to any institution that includes religion among its primary purposes.

City firemen awarded $1.036 million for bias

Source: Renee Winkler, Courier-Post
Date: December 10, 2004

A jury in U.S. District Court on Thursday found that two black deputy fire chiefs in Camden [NJ] had been subjected to years of on-the-job race-based hostility and awarded them a total of $1.036 million. Finding that race discrimination pervaded the department, the eight-member jury set punitive damages at $650,000. The jury also found that Kevin Hailey lost $70,000 in wages and Terrence Crowder, $116,000 in wages, because they were not given work assignments that gave them experience to qualify for promotional examinations.

Court OKs Philly's same-sex benefits

Source: Associated Press, WPVI.com
Date: December 7, 2004

In a victory for gay couples, Pennsylvania's Supreme Court ruled Monday that Philadelphia has a right to give city employees in same-sex "life partnerships" the same type of worker benefits now enjoyed only by married couples. The justices overturned a lower court, which ruled two years ago that city lawmakers had overstepped their authority and created "a new marital status" by recognizing same-sex relationships. Only the state, that court said, had a right to regulate marriage.

Sunoco settles race bias lawsuit for $5.5M

Source: Jim Smith, Philadelphia Daily News
Date: December 1, 2004

Many African-Americans in salaried professional posts at Sunoco's Philadelphia-area work sites believed that a racial "glass ceiling" kept them out of top jobs. While denying any wrongdoing, Sunoco yesterday asked a federal judge in Philadelphia to approve a $5.5 million settlement to resolve racial discrimination claims affecting some 200 current and former black supervisors and managers at Sunoco. Lawyers for the black workers called the settlement "fair, reasonable and adequate," and urged U.S. District Judge Clifford Scott Green to sign it. Under the proposed settlement, Sunoco will pay about $3.6 million to the workers and $1.5 million to their lawyers.

Disc jockey Hy Lit's discrimination suit may proceed

Source: Joseph A. Slobodzian, Philadelphia Inquirer
Date: October 13, 2004

A federal judge yesterday denied a motion filed by lawyers for Infinity Broadcasting Corp. and WOGL-FM [Philadelphia] to dismiss an age- and disability-discrimination lawsuit filed in July by legendary rock-and-roll disc jockey Hy Lit. U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle III ruled that Lit had provided sufficient proof of his claims for the lawsuit to continue and had properly exhausted his administrative appeals with federal and state workplace-discrimination agencies before filing suit. Lit contend[s] station officials slashed his salary and benefits after he began exhibiting symptoms of Parkinson's disease in 2000.

Judge sends federal sex bias claim against Erie to trial

Source: Associated Press, Centre Daily Times
Date: October 9, 2004

The city of Erie [Pennsylvania] will get to defend itself in court against U.S. Justice Department claims that a physical agility test it used for police applicants unfairly discriminated against female candidates. The federal government wants U.S. District Judge Sean McLaughlin to require the city to award money to women who failed the test and to put them on a preferential hiring list. To do that, McLaughlin must find the test didn't fairly measure the minimum physical qualifications to be an Erie police officer. The judge on Friday refused the government's request to issue a summary judgment. Instead, the judge said an expert who examined the test presented a defense that should be heard at trial.

University of Pittsburgh to offer benefits to same-sex partners

Source: Associated Press, Observer-Reporter
Date: September 2, 2004

The University of Pittsburgh has agreed to offer health benefits to same-sex partners, ending eight years of legal wrangling over coverage for employees. Chancellor Mark Nordenberg cited competition for workers rather than a 1996 lawsuit filed by seven employees who alleged that they were being discriminated against. The decision resolves a lawsuit stemming from a complaint filed by former Pitt employee with the Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations alleging that the school violated the city's 1990 gay-rights law barring discrimination based on sexual orientation.

National class certified in suit over employee bonuses

Source: Melissa Nann, The Legal Intelligencer, law.com
Date: August 4, 2004

A Philadelphia judge has certified a national class of potentially 1,200 people who worked for a Malvern, Pa.-based medical software company in 1998 and whose incentive-based bonuses for that year were cut by 30 percent--the equivalent of $12 million to $15 million. The lawsuit, Street v. Siemens Medical Solutions Health Services Corp., is a breach of contract dispute in which Siemens Medical Solutions claims that its senior management had a right to reduce the employee bonuses, called "incentive compensation plans," at any time. In court records, [plaintiff Janet] Street contends that under Pennsylvania contract law, the 30 percent across-the-board reduction of hers and others' 1998 bonuses had no basis in any contract language.

Monterey Mushrooms targeted by EEOC in discrimination suit

Source: Gwen Mickelson, Santa Cruz Sentinel [California]
Date: July 22, 2004

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a national-origin discrimination and retaliation lawsuit Wednesday against Amycel, a subsidiary of Monterey Mushrooms, which employs more than 3,000 people [and] is the largest mushroom grower and distributor in North America. The EEOC's suit alleges Amycel's sales director at the company's Avondale, Penn., site violated Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act when he harassed Ronald Berger by referring to him as "Osama bin Laden" and as a "terrorist." In addition, the suit says Amycel further violated Title VII when it fired Berger for complaining about his treatment. The suit seeks to eliminate the discriminatory practices cited in the case and have Amycel compensate Berger for the monetary losses and emotional pain and humiliation.

Jury awards Owens $68,000 in QVC lawsuit

Source: Associated Press, PhillyBurbs.com
Date: June 30, 2004

A jury awarded nearly $68,000 in back pay to a television shopping host Wednesday after finding that the black woman earned less than a comparable male host, but said race was not a factor in her work assignments. The federal jury also rejected allegations that QVC retaliated against Gwen Owens for filing the discrimination lawsuit or intentionally discriminated against her because of her gender. The jury, after more than a week of deliberations, has not decided whether race played a role in her 1998 firing. It was to resume deliberations Thursday.

3rd Circuit Revives Suit Over Assault by Federal Worker

Source: Shannon P. Duffy, The Legal Intelligencer, law.com
Date: June 21, 2004

A federal appeals court has revived a suit brought by a man who suffered a broken neck when he was attacked by a federal worker, holding that while the government is immune from suit over the intentional assault, it may nonetheless be liable for the alleged negligence of the attacker's co-workers if they were aware of his violent nature and failed to prevent the incident. In Matsko v. United States of America, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said it agreed with a lower court's ruling that the Federal Tort Claims Act "does not waive the United States' immunity for intentional assaults by government workers who are acting outside the scope of their employment."

Rules are set for some harassment cases

Source: Linda Greenhouse, New York Times
Date: June 15, 2004

In an important ruling on sexual harassment in the workplace, the Supreme Court on Monday set guidelines for assessing an employer's liability for working conditions that become so unendurable as to lead a reasonable employee to resign without formally being dismissed. The court held that an employer could ordinarily defend itself in such a situation by showing that it had adequate procedures in place for reporting harassment but that the employee failed to use those procedures. But that defense is unavailable, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the 8-to-1 majority, if a supervisor or manager had engaged in an "official act" like a demotion or reduction in pay that contributed to the intolerable work environment. In such a case, Justice Ginsburg said, the employer is liable, without any defense, as long as the facts of the case are proven.

It's no Wonder why bakery agrees to pay 222G to settle sex-harass suits

Source: Jim Smith, Philadelphia Daily News
Date: May 27, 2004

While denying wrongdoing, the maker of Wonder Bread has agreed to pay a total of $222,000 to settle sexual harassment claims filed by several female workers at its Northeast Philadelphia bakery. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed the case against Interstate last July. The suit alleged that female bakery workers had been groped, called "bitches" and "bimbos," and propositioned for sex by male co-workers and supervisors. The bakery's main product, Wonder Bread, is the top-selling bread in America.

Former QVC Host Testifies in Lawsuit Alleging Racial Bias

Source: Joseph A. Slobodzian, The Philadelphia Inquirer
Date: May 14, 2004

Gwen Owens said the West Chester [Pennsylvania] shopping network exiled minority talent to graveyard shifts. In addition to less lucrative shifts, the suit claims that minorities were told to use makeup to lighten their complexion while on air, were paid less than whites, and that minority women were paid the least of all.

Appeals Court: NLRB Only Covers U.S.

Source: Associated Press, New York Times
Date: April 23, 2004

The National Labor Relations Board has no power to sanction U.S. companies for unfair labor practices committed outside the nation's borders, even when the violations involve Americans working abroad, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday. The ruling by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals barred the labor board from taking action against a Pennsylvania company that fired two tree trimmers after they complained about work conditions while cleaning up storm damage in Canada six years ago. Some of the workers for Asplundh Tree Co. complained their daily stipend for living expenses wasn't enough to cover the cost of their food. Two of the employees were fired, and told to find their own way home back to the United States.

Philadelphia: Life Partners Law Not Meant to Create Equivalence of Marriage

Source: Melissa Nann, The Legal Intelligencer
Date: April 14, 2004

A lawyer for the city of Philadelphia told the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Tuesday that the purpose of the city's domestic partnership ordinances was not to create the equivalence of marriage for same-sex couples but to protect them from discrimination and provide benefits to registered "life partners" of city employees. "There is no conflict between what the ordinance does and what the domestic code of Pennsylvania does," the attorney, Barbara W. Mather, told the justices. The benefits and protections bestowed by the ordinances at issue are not provided uniquely to married people, "so we're not about equating life partnership to marriage," explained Mather, a partner at Pepper Hamilton. "The reason you can be certain of that is you can take notice of the events of the last six months where people in San Francisco were lined up out the door for marriage licenses," said Mather, referring to 4,160 marriage licenses issued to gay couples in San Francisco before the California Supreme Court ordered the city to stop last month. "There were not similar lines here in Philadelphia."

Pa. High Court Hears Arguments on City Same-Sex Partner Benefits

Source: Michael Currie Schaffer, Philadelphia Inquirer
Date: April 13, 2004

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court heard arguments today in a case that challenges a key city gay-rights ordinance. William T. Devlin, an evangelical Christian activist who runs the Urban Family Council, sued the city over a 1998 bill that grants benefits to registered "life partners" of public employees and also exempts such couples from discrimination and from paying property-transfer tax on sales to their partners. Upheld by Common Pleas Court in 2000, Philadelphia's law was struck down by Commonwealth Court in 2002. The state Supreme Court agreed late last fall to hear the city's appeal. Devlin's attorney, Dennis M. Abrams, argued that the city had overstepped its legal authority in creating life-partnership status. "The City of Philadelphia, I submit, doesn't have the right to do that," Abrams said. Abrams maintained that only the state had the right to define marriage. He said that because the benefits provided by Philadelphia's law depend on a couple's having registered as life-partners, the benefits are improper. Barbara Mather, who represented Philadelphia, said the benefits were not part of an effort to replicated marriage. She noted that many non-married categories of people are eligible for the law's benefits.

Relief for Afghani, Muslim Workers Harassed at Solano County Car Dealer Chain

Source: EEOC.gov
Date: April 6, 2004

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today announced a $550,000 settlement with Barber Dodge and Fairfield Toyota, part of the Barber Dealer Group, a network of thirteen auto dealerships in Fairfield and Vallejo of Solano County, California. This resolves a federal lawsuit that alleged constant harassment of seven employees between June and December 2000, with name-calling such as "terrorists" and "thieves" and public derision of their Afghani national origin, dark skin color and Muslim faith. The suit also raised charges of constructive discharge and retaliation. Under the terms of the Consent Decree signed today by U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell, Barber Dodge and Fairfield Toyota deny all charges but have agreed to resolve the lawsuit (EEOC v. Fairfield Toyota, Barber Dodge, CIV. S-03-0657 GEB GGH). The dealerships will pay the seven former employees $550,000, and will conduct training to prevent future discrimination, revise anti-discrimination policies and implement an effective complaint procedure. A former employee recounted of her experience, "What I remember is, I remember hatred." Marcia Mitchell, the EEOC attorney who worked on this case, said, "The discrimination haunted the employees. One young woman noted that this was her first 'real' job after college, and because of her experience at Barber Dodge, she fears future employment will hold more harassment and bias." "Strikingly, this behavior all occurred prior to 9-11 but around the time when bin Laden and Afghanistan were in the news related to other terrorist incidents," stated EEOC Regional Attorney William Tamayo. "This case together with another EEOC case settled last March for $1.1 million, involving harassment of Muslim Pakistani steel workers reveals that Middle Easterners and Muslims have been the targets of discrimination for quite some time."

Forced Release Forms Signed by Allstate Agents Are Voidable

Source: Melissa Nann, The Legal Intelligencer
Date: April 5, 2004

A release that 6,200 sales agents for Allstate Insurance Co. were required to sign in order to keep their jobs is voidable because it prohibited the agents from filing complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a federal judge has ruled. If a sufficiently large number of agents and former agents decide to rescind the releases because they are voidable, the group may apply for class certification when the definition of the proposed class is clarified, U.S. District Court Senior Judge John P. Fullam concluded. The releases, issued in 1999, gave agents the option of changing their employment status to "independent contractor" (as opposed to "employee-agent") or losing their jobs at the end of June 2000, according to the judge's opinion. The releases also barred the agents from bringing claims against the company under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits sexual harassment, according to the opinion.

Allstate Agents Pin Hopes on ERISA Charges Following Dismissal of Age Discrimination Complaint

Source: Insurance Journal
Date: April 2, 2004

Despite a federal judge throwing out their high-profile class action age discrimination claim against Allstate Insurance Co., lawyers for the 6,400 agents say they are happy with the decision overall because it permits their ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act) claims for breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty to go forward. In Philadelphia, U.S. District Judge John P. Fullam rejected the group's age discrimination case against the insurer, deciding it was invalid "for the simple reason that employees of all ages were treated alike." "An employer who visits adverse consequences upon all employees, irrespective of age, cannot be held liable for age discrimination," wrote the judge, adding that whether many of the "affected employees, or even a majority, are within the protected age group, is irrelevant." Approximately 90 percent of the employee-agents were over age 40, and the median age was 50, when Allstate reorganized in 2000, according to the complaints.

Allstate Wins in Age Bias Claim, but Agents Make Headway

Source: Associated Press, Houston Chronicle
Date: April 1, 2004

A federal judge has ruled that Allstate Insurance Co. did not commit age discrimination in 2000 when it forced thousands of its agents to become private contractors with limited benefits. In a class-action lawsuit, a group of agents had alleged that the 6,400 people affected by the reorganization had a median age of 50 and were the victims of a policy that unfairly targeted older workers. Allstate said it was simply trying to save $600 million a year and had no plan to rid itself of older workers. In a pretrial ruling signed Tuesday, U.S. District Judge John Fullam said there was no basis for the age discrimination claim "for the simple reason that employees of all ages were treated alike." "An employer who visits adverse consequences upon all employees, irrespective of age, cannot be held liable for age discrimination," Fullam wrote. "The fact, if it is a fact, that many of the affected employees, or even a majority, are within the protected age group, is irrelevant."

High Court Weighs Worker's Quitting in Harassment Case

Source: Associated Press, USA Today
Date: March 31, 2004

The Supreme Court considered Wednesday whether an employee who quits because of persistent sexual harassment on the job has the same right to sue her employer as someone who was unfairly punished or fired. The court heard the case of Nancy Drew Suders, who claims she had no choice but to quit a well-paying job as a dispatcher with the Pennsylvania State Police. Day in and day out, Suders claims, her male co-workers taunted her with lewd talk about sex with animals and worse. Suders claims one officer repeatedly grabbed his crotch in front of her and others told dirty jokes. After five months, Suders quit and sued for alleged sexual harassment.

Supreme Court to Hear Workplace Harassment Lawsuit by Woman Who Had Resigned from Police Job

Source: Mark Scolforo (Associated Press), Sign On San Diego
Date: March 27, 2004

Nancy Drew Suders spent just five months as a state police dispatcher before quitting over what she said was a continual stream of lewd and offensive comments by her supervisors. Now her lawsuit against the state police is headed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which will hear arguments Wednesday on whether she can sue even though she didn't take advantage of a state police system for handling sexual harassment complaints. The Supreme Court has previously ruled that employers who have such plans are immune from sexual harassment lawsuits, unless the employee is fired or punished in some way. At issue in Suders' case is whether quitting under duress is the legal equivalent of being fired. The case will be closely watched by businesses. If the high court backs Suders, employers worry they'll have to conduct expensive reviews each time someone quits, in order to protect themselves from sexual harassment lawsuits. Civil rights groups believe workers who feel forced to quit should not lose their legal rights.

Ex-IUP Professor Claims Discrimination, Sues School

Source: The Pittsburgh Channel
Date: March 23, 2004

A former professor has sued Indiana University of Pennsylvania, claiming he lost his job because he was partially deaf and asked students to sit in the front rows of his classes. Timothy V. Kelly, 51, of Pittsburgh, claims he was discriminated against when his contract wasn't renewed last year because he has hearing loss, according to the lawsuit. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, Kelly claims the school should have made reasonable accommodations for him. He wants his job back and is seeking damages for lost wages.

How Should Harassment Victims' Claims of "Constructive Discharge" Be Treated?

Source: Joanna Grossman, FindLaw's Writ
Date: March 23, 2004

Next week, the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in Pennsylvania State Police v. Suders. The case is a significant one, for it tests an important aspect of employer liability for sexual harassment. The case involves a claim of constructive discharge--specifically, that the employee's supervisor created an environment so sexually hostile that she was forced to quit. The question for the court is whether the employer in such a case should be held strictly liable or should be able to raise a recognized affirmative defense to liability. The Court, I will argue, should hold that strict liability is appropriate.

City Schools Settle Last Racial Discrimination Suit

Source: Eleanor Chute, Pittsburgh Post Gazette
Date: March 4, 2004

Pittsburgh Public Schools has settled the last of 10 racial discrimination lawsuits filed by security employees. The school board voted last week to pay former school police Officer Ron Mancini $50,000. The settlement also requires the district's insurance carrier to pay $170,000, said school district Solicitor Stephanie Royal. Ira Weiss, district counsel, said the settlement covers the plaintiff's attorney fees. Settlements in the other nine cases totaled $151,000, of which the district paid half, Royal said. She said the district also incurred legal costs, of which it paid $56,780. Its insurer also paid some legal fees.

$3.2M Verdict Against FedEx for Sex Harassment

Source: Shannon P. Duffy, The Legal Intelligencer
Date: February 27, 2004

A Harrisburg, Pa., federal jury's award this week of more than $3.2 million in a sexual harassment suit against Federal Express Corp. -- including $2.5 million in punitive damages -- is sure to lead to a post-trial battle over how much the plaintiff is entitled to keep in light of a $300,000 federal cap on damages. The battle is also likely to be a complicated one due to Pennsylvania case law that bars awards of punitive damages under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act and a split among federal judges in Pennsylvania on the question of whether there is a private right of action under the Pennsylvania Equal Rights Amendment. The suit, filed by attorney Cynthia A. Locke of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, originally alleged claims only under Title VII for gender discrimination and sexual harassment. Plaintiff Marion Shaub's private lawyers, Martha Sperling of Silver & Sperling in Doylestown, Pa., and Ralph E. Lamar IV of Collegeville, Pa., later intervened in the case and added a claim of retaliation under Title VII, as well as sexual harassment, sex discrimination and retaliation claims under the PHRA, and a state law claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Former FedEx Driver Wins EEOC Lawsuit

Source: Associated Press, Houston Chronicle
Date: February 26, 2004

A federal jury in Harrisburg awarded $3.24 million to a former FedEx tractor-trailer driver who claimed she was sexually harassed and had the brakes on her truck sabotaged five separate times in an attempt to intimidate her. The jury found Federal Express, a unit of the Memphis, Tenn.-based FedEx, liable for a hostile work environment and retaliation against Marion Shaub, 47, and determined it had intentionally inflicted severe emotional distress. She was awarded $2.5 million in punitive damages, $391,000 in back pay and $350,000 for pain and suffering.

Ten Men Out

Source: Shannon P. Duffy, The Legal Intelligence
Date: February 20, 2004

In the lawsuit brought by a group of major league baseball umpires who lost their jobs in 1999 after they joined a mass resignation campaign that backfired, a federal appeals court has upheld an arbitrator's decision that ordered the reinstatement of nine umpires and denied the reinstatement claims of 10 others. But a dissenting judge said he would have tossed out the entire case on the grounds that the dispute "was never arbitrable in the first place." The decision in The Major League Umpires Association v. The American League of Professional Baseball Clubs, et al., upholds a series of rulings handed down in December 2001 by U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle III. Like Bartle, the appellate court's majority concluded that the arbitrator's decision could not be disturbed.

Lawsuit: Wal-Mart Locked Illegals in Stores

Source: Associated Press, CNN.com
Date: February 3, 2004

A civil rights suit filed against Wal-Mart by illegal immigrants was expanded Monday to accuse America's biggest retailer of locking its janitors inside stores during their shifts. The amendment to the lawsuit comes as a federal grand jury in Pennsylvania weighs evidence to determine whether Wal-Mart will face criminal charges in the use of illegal immigrants to clean its stores. A lawyer for Wal-Mart denied the new allegation. INS agents raided Wal-Mart stores across the country on October 23 in a sweep that resulted in the arrest of hundreds of janitors on immigration charges.

No Nominal Damages Under ADEA

Source: Shannon P. Duffy, The Legal Intelligencer
Date: January 29, 2004

If the plaintiff in a federal age discrimination suit cannot prove any lost wages, the case must be dismissed because the Age Discrimination in Employment Act does not allow awards of compensatory or even nominal damages, a federal magistrate judge has ruled. In Beverly v. Desmond Hotel & Conference Center, U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacob P. Hart said he discovered on the eve of trial that the case was fatally flawed because the only remaining claim was an ADEA claim for which the plaintiff could not show any lost wages. As a result, Hart concluded that even if a jury were to find a violation of the ADEA in James Beverly's case, no damages would be available.

Sex Bias Alleged in Erie, Pa. Police Test

Source: Charles Sheehan (AP), Newsday
Date: January 8, 2004

The city of Erie has discriminated against female police applicants for years by requiring an overly demanding physical test, the U.S. Justice Department alleges in a lawsuit filed Thursday. Since the test was put in place in 1996 in the northwest Pennsylvania city, only 13 percent of female candidates have passed, while 71 percent of males succeeded, the lawsuit said. As of November 2002, the Erie police force had 193 male officers and nine female, prosecutors said. "This is the most restrictive test in the nation that we're aware of," U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan said, calling the test illegal and "an arbitrary barrier." According to the lawsuit, filed in federal court in Pittsburgh, the test requires applicants to run a 220-yard obstacle course in 90 seconds -- scaling walls, climbing through a window, crawling, doing push-ups and sit-ups and then pulling the trigger of a revolver, held at arm's length, with each hand.

Federal Law Allows Employer's Search of Worker's E-Mails

Source: Shannon P. Duffy, The Legal Intelligencer
Date: December 12, 2003

An employer's decision to dig through an employee's e-mails in computer storage does not violate any provisions of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act since the law bans an "interception" only if it occurs at the time of transmission and exempts the owner of an e-mail system from any claim alleging an illegal "seizure" of stored e-mails, a federal appeals court has ruled. In Fraser v. Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co., the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that since Richard Fraser's e-mails were stored on Nationwide's system, any search by the company was authorized by an express exemption in the federal ECPA for e-mail service providers. The unanimous three-judge panel also rejected Fraser's claim that he was wrongfully discharged in September 1998 in retaliation for his lodging complaints against Nationwide with state authorities and his efforts to get legislation passed that would have protected agents like himself from being fired for anything less than just cause.

State Hires Law Firm for Geist to Fight Discrimination Suit

Source: Wendy Ruderman, Philadelphia Enquirer
Date: December 10, 2003

The state [of Pennsylvania] has hired a prominent law firm to represent State Sen. George Geist, who is battling a discrimination lawsuit filed by a former legislative aide. Generally, state lawyers represent legislators in lawsuits. In this case, however, the state Attorney General's Office decided to hire outside legal counsel to avoid conflict of interest, according to Lee Moore, spokesman for the state Division of Law. Geist, who lost his bid for reelection last month in a heated fight, is a Republican, and the Attorney General's Office is part of Gov. McGreevey's Democratic administration.

2 Sue Greek Orthodox Diocese Over Firings

Source: Torsten Ove, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Date: December 5, 2003

Two former employees of the Greek Orthodox Diocese of Pittsburgh sued the church and its national office yesterday, saying they were fired after complaining about harassment by a church official at the diocese's Shadyside headquarters. Patricia A. Patsakis, a former coordinator, and Angela Sklavos, a former executive secretary, said in a complaint in federal court that they were subjected to a hostile work environment by the Rev. Ryan Gzikowski, assistant to Metropolitan Maximos, bishop of the diocese in Pittsburgh. Patsakis, 53, of Lower Burrell, and Sklavos, 33, of Forest Hills, said the bishop fired them Oct. 8, 2002, after they had repeatedly complained about Gzikowski.

PJAX Pays $500,000 in Bias Suit Settlement

Source: Dorothy Cox , The Trucker
Date: December 1, 2003

The PJAX Inc. trucking firm of Gibsonia, Pa., is paying more than $500,000 to settle a sex harassment lawsuit. But a company spokeswoman said that's not an admission of wrongdoing, it's an attempt to avoid a costly court case. Even though PJAX has "steadfastly denied" the allegations and believes the company would have been successful in federal court, it made a business decision to forego the expense and "distraction" of a court case, said Roxanne Germ, PJAX director and spokeswoman.

Court to Examine Workplace Harassment

Source: Associated Press, ABC News
Date: December 2, 2003

The Supreme Court agreed Monday to clarify when employers can be sued for sexual harassment, in a case involving a Pennsylvania woman who claims male bosses told her dirty jokes and urged her to perform sex acts. Nancy Drew Suders quit her state police dispatcher job after enduring persistent harassment, including one boss who talked about man-on-animal sex and oral sex, and another supervisor who called her "Momma" and repeatedly acted out a sexually provocative wrestling stunt, she said. Suders' case raises an employment question that the Supreme Court never has decided whether people who voluntarily quit their jobs and then claim harassment have the same legal rights as those who are fired.

Supervisors Denied Immunity in Suit Over Ex-Trooper's Sexual Misconduct

Source: Shannon P. Duffy, The Legal Intelligencer
Date: November 11, 2003

In a significant victory for three women who filed civil rights suits alleging sexual misconduct by Michael K. Evans, a former Pennsylvania state trooper who has since pleaded guilty to 11 sex crimes, a federal judge has refused to dismiss key claims against some of the top-ranking officials in the state police. In her 62-page opinion in Maslow v. Evans, U.S. District Judge Cynthia M. Rufe of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania rejected the argument that 15 state police officials who supervised Evans, including former state police Commissioner Paul J. Evanko, were entitled to "qualified immunity." "Given the nature, quality and quantity of scandalous and troubling information known to these defendants, the court cannot conclude that their legal obligations could have been unclear," Rufe wrote. "Each of these defendants was aware that Evans had used his authority as a state trooper improperly and that the objects of his egregious misconduct were, on far too many occasions, women or young girls in the community."

Kraft Hit with Racial Bias Suit

Source: Kelly Quigley, Chicago Business
Date: November 4, 2003

A former Kraft Foods Inc. employee is suing the company for race discrimination, claiming she and other African-American employees at a Nabisco bakery in Philadelphia were more often passed up for promotions and disciplined more severely than their white co-workers. The class-action suit, filed Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, says Kraft inherited a ?longstanding pattern and practice of discrimination? when it acquired Nabisco Holdings Corp. in 2000. Plaintiff Debra Davis alleges that between August 1997 and June 2002, while she worked at the Nabisco bakery, white workers were ?groomed? for rapid advancement while black employees were denied such opportunities. The suit also claims Kraft disciplined its African-American workers more harshly than white employees for similar offenses.

'Subsequent Good Act' by Employer Admissible

Source: Shannon P. Duffy, The Legal Intelligencer
Date: October 31, 2003

In an age discrimination suit, the defendant company may present evidence that it hired another older worker more than a year after the plaintiff was fired because such evidence is relevant to the issue of the employer's alleged discriminatory intent, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled. In Ansell v. Green Acres Contracting Co., a unanimous three-judge panel found that trial judges have the discretion under Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b) to allow such evidence of a "subsequent good act." In so ruling, the court rejected the plaintiff's argument that evidence of a subsequent hiring is always irrelevant to the issue of an employer's intent as a matter of law. Instead, the court found that since plaintiffs are free to present evidence of an employer's conduct toward other workers to show pretext, the defense must also be allowed to point to its treatment of other workers both to rebut the plaintiff's arguments and to bolster the explanations offered by the defense.

Law Firm Manager Alleges Firing for Serving Jury Duty

Source: Melissa Nann, The Legal Intelligencer
Date: October 29, 2003

The office manager of a Philadelphia law firm who was allegedly fired for serving jury duty can challenge her termination under state law even though the firm she worked for employed fewer than 15 people, a trial judge ruled Monday in an apparent case of first impression. Senior Judge Barry F. Feudale of Northumberland County, visiting judge in the Philadelphia Common Pleas case, denied the law firm's motion for summary judgment in Sheeran v. Kubert Himmelstein & Associates. Feudale said the firm's argument that state law exempts retail and service industry employers with fewer than 15 staff members from holding jurors' places was "absurd and unreasonable." The "mischief" created by such an interpretation would be discriminatory, contrary to the legal exemptions for jury duty and would upset the intent of state public policy on the issue, the judge explained. The suggested interpretation would also allow too many people to avoid jury service, Feudale wrote, saying it would stir an "administrative nightmare for judges and jury administrators who are struggling with the problem of encouraging more people to serve on juries at a time when recent studies show a reluctance to serve on jury duty, leading to a crisis in several jurisdictions."

Unions Sue Labor Dept. for Clean Air Regs

Source: Reuters, Yahoo News
Date: October 21, 2003

The United Auto Workers and United Steelworkers of America filed a lawsuit against the Labor Department on Tuesday, seeking to force it to set clean air standards for factories that the unions said could save workers' lives. The suit urges the Philadelphia-based U.S. Court of Appeals to order the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to issue standards reducing exposure to toxic metalworking fluids widely used in manufacturing automobiles, farm equipment, aircraft and other products. "Breathing mist from metalworking fluids can cause severe respiratory ailments," the unions said in a joint statement, adding that these included pulmonary fibrosis, or permanent scarring of the lungs, which can be fatal.

Becker Calls on Congress, Justices to Fix ERISA

Source: Shannon P. Duffy, The Legal Intelligencer
Date: October 16, 2003

As 3rd Circuit Judge Edward R. Becker sees it, perfectly valid lawsuits against HMOs are routinely being tossed out of court due to the unfairness of the pre-emption provisions in ERISA, and either Congress or the U.S. Supreme Court had better do something about it soon. In a lengthy and powerfully worded concurring opinion in DiFelice v. Aetna Becker outlined a series of possible solutions to the problem, including a rewriting of ERISA.

ERISA and Bad-Faith Claim Debate

Source: Shannon P. Duffy, The Legal Intelligencer
Date: October 14, 2003

Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, a new case has suddenly emerged that will give the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals an opportunity to address the bubbling question of whether plaintiffs in ERISA cases may also bring a claim under Pennsylvania's bad-faith statute. The issue is critically important because ERISA's remedies are strictly limited while a bad-faith claim allows for an award of punitive damages. For lawyers on both sides, a decision from the 3rd Circuit would end more than a year of uncertainty that began when Senior U.S. District Judge Clarence C. Newcomer handed down his decision in Rosenbaum v. UNUM Life Insurance Co., holding that ERISA does not pre-empt a claim under Section 8371, Pennsylvania's bad-faith statute. The June 2002 decision spawned a flurry of litigation as plaintiffs lawyers across the state moved to add bad-faith claims to pending lawsuits.

McDonald's Employee Lodges Harassment Complaint

Source: Associated Press, NBC10.com
Date: September 29, 2003

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed suit on behalf of a teenager who contends he was fired after rejecting the sexual advances of a female supervisor at a McDonald's restaurant. The lawsuit says the teen was hired in October 2000 and was sexually harassed by a female supervisor older than 21. The EEOC contends that the supervisor "slapped his buttocks, touched and kissed him, told him that she wanted to date him, scheduled him to work on closing shift with her and offered him rides home from work."

Judge Hears Age-Bias Suit by Agents at Allstate

Source: Joseph B. Treaster, New York Times
Date: September 16, 2003

A lawyer for agents in a long-running age discrimination dispute against Allstate said today that company executives told the board in the summer of 1999 that summarily dismissing "low-performing agents" in a drive for greater efficiency was "not legally possible." It was the first face-to-face courtroom confrontation in the case. At the hearing here in Federal District Court and in a later interview, a lawyer for Allstate, Edward F. Mannino, acknowledged that "low-performing agents" referred to older agents who had become less productive. He said the company decided against focusing on that category of agents.

Allstate Agents Seek Class-Action Status for Age Discrimination Suit

Source: Associated Press, News Observer (NC)
Date: September 15, 2003

Lawyers for Allstate Insurance Co. asked a federal judge Monday to dismiss a suit accusing the company of age discrimination, while the plaintiffs asked for their complaint to be certified as class action. The suit, filed in August 2001, contends that 6,400 agents with a median age of 50 were improperly converted from company employees to private contractors with few benefits in 2000. Allstate maintains the job reclassifications were part of a program to save $600 million a year and weren't intended to get rid of older workers. Lawyers said agents were told they had to sign a release waiving their right to sue for discrimination, or they would lose their jobs.

Federal Judge: ERISA Does Not Pre-empt Bad-Faith Lawsuits

Source: Shannon P. Duffy, The Legal Intelligencer
Date: September 10, 2003

In Rosenbaum v. UNUM Life Insurance Co., Senior U.S. District Judge Clarence C. Newcomer refused to reconsider a July 2002 ruling that cleared the way for an ERISA plaintiff to pursue a claim under Pennsylvania's bad-faith statute -- and the prospect of punitive damages -- after finding that the most recent ERISA decision from the U.S. Supreme Court now proves that ? 8371 liability survives retirement law.

Metals Company to Pay $500,000 to Settle Sex Discrimination Suit

Source: Associated Press, PennLive
Date: August 29, 2003

A Washington County metals firm will pay $500,000 to settle a class-action sex discrimination lawsuit on behalf of dozens of women who claimed the company refused to hire women for entry-level production and maintenance jobs from 1994 to 1999. Langeloth Mettalurgical Company denied any wrongdoing but has agreed to change its hiring practices, including using "gender-blind" evaluations and public advertisements of job qualifications, according to the settlement. The suit was filed on behalf of 94 women who applied for work after 1994 but were not hired. The company, a molybdenum conversion facility, hired no women to the entry-level positions between 1993 and 1999, according to the plaintiffs attorney, Gregory Kunkel.

Court Confirms U. Discriminated

Source: David Burrick, Daily Pennsylvanian
Date: August 28, 2003

An appeals court affirmed that Penn engaged in discrimination in 1997. The University lost its appeal last month of a sexual discrimination lawsuit which found it guilty of passing over a qualified male candidate for the position of women's crew head coach. Andrew Medcalf -- a male assistant with the Penn men's heavyweight crew team from 1991 to 1997 -- was awarded $115,000 in the original suit. He sought to fill the women's team's coaching vacancy in 1997, yet his resum? was dismissed before he was granted an interview.

County to Settle Suit with Former Workers for $110,000

Source: Linda Metz, Observer-Reporter (PA)
Date: August 8, 2003

Washington County [Pennsylvania] commissioners have opted to settle a lawsuit for $110,000 with four former county employees who claim they were unjustly fired from their positions. The former employees were released from their jobs by Commissioners John Bevec and Diana L. Irey early in 2000, shortly after they were sworn in to new terms in office. McGowen, Wynne and Levine claimed age discrimination was the motive for their firing. McGowen, then 62, was replaced by Marlene Luketich, 44, who is no longer employed by the county. Wynne, 52, was replaced by George Krcelich, 51. And Levine, then 68, was replaced by a 48-year-old woman.

Punitives OK'd in Discrimination Suit Against Penn

Source: Shannon P. Duffy, The Legal Intelligencer
Date: August 4, 2003

Punitive damages were justified in a reverse sex discrimination suit against the University of Pennsylvania where the evidence showed that one of the decision-makers decided not to interview any male candidates for coach of the women's crew team despite knowing that the university's policies prohibited ever taking gender into account when hiring, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled. In its 19-page opinion in Medcalf v. University of Pennsylvania, a unanimous three-judge panel upheld a jury's November 2001 award of more than $115,000 -- including $25,120 in punitive damages -- to Andrew Medcalf, a former assistant coach of the university's men's crew team who said he was clearly the best candidate for the head coach of the women's team and was passed over only because of his sex.

N.E. Bakery Sued for Sex Harassment

Source: Jim Smith, Philadelphia Daily News
Date: July 31, 2003

Federal authorities say some supervisors at the big Interstate Brands Corp. bakery in Northeast Philadelphia, where Wonder Bread and other goodies are made, treat female workers like trash. Women are groped, called "bitches" and "bimbos" and propositioned for sex, according to a lawsuit filed yesterday in federal court by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC claims women at the plant, on Blue Grass Road near Roosevelt Boulevard, are denied higher-paying jobs. The bakery employs about 700 people, about 20 percent of them female.

Sex Bias Suit Against Lafayette Tossed

Source: Elliot Grossman, Morning Call
Date: July 29, 2003

A federal judge has blocked the first --and only -- female athletic director at Lafayette College from pursuing her sex discrimination lawsuit against the college. U.S. District Judge Ronald Buckwalter of Philadelphia dismissed Eve Atkinson's case because she lacked enough evidence to prove her claims and failed to follow legal requirements for filing a civil rights suit. Atkinson ? one of the few women in the nation to ever head a college sports program ? argued that she was fired because of her gender. In her 2001 suit, she also claimed she was fired because she criticized the college for failing to equally support its male and female sports' programs.

Ex-Athletic Director Loses Sex Bias Case

Source: Shannon P. Duffy, The Legal Intelligencer
Date: July 28, 2003

A federal judge has dismissed a sex discrimination suit brought by one of the highest-ranking women ever in college sports administration who alleged that she was ousted from her position as director of athletics at Lafayette College in Easton, Pa., after 12 years on the job because she complained about gender inequity in the funding of the college's sports programs. In his 23-page opinion in Atkinson v. Lafayette College, U.S. District Judge Ronald L. Buckwalter found that "no reasonable jury could find that [Eve] Atkinson's gender played a role in her termination, in the denial of her claim that she had lifetime tenure, or in the denial of her request for a faculty appeal." Buckwalter also rejected Atkinson's claim that Lafayette had breached her contract by firing her from a post as a tenured professor without affording her a hearing before a faculty committee.

EEOC Alleges Pornography in Workplace, Sues Foundry

Source: Jim McKay, Pittsburgh Post Gazette
Date: July 25, 2003

A federal agency has sued a foundry in Westmoreland County on behalf of a female shipping clerk who claimed repeated exposure to graphic pornography at work caused her to go into a panic attack. The lawsuit was filed yesterday in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against Akers National Roll Co. of Avonmore. The suit alleged that Cynthia Logan, 46, of Leechburg, was hospitalized last Sept. 30 for chest pain and hypertension after being confronted with offensive pornography near her office door. She had repeatedly complained prior to then about pictures and posters of nude and partially clad women in the workplace, said her attorney, Susan Mahood.

Restaurant Settles Sex-Harassment Case for 150G

Source: Jim Smith, Philadelphia Daily News
Date: July 24, 2003

Owners of a Delaware County Taco Bell restaurant will pay $150,000 to a former worker who claimed she was forced to have sex with a shift manager in his office when she was a teenager. Meanwhile, Jacqueline H. McNair, regional attorney for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a party to the settlement, said she believes that sexual harassment of minors has become "a disturbing trend" in the fast-food industry. The EEOC sued Oak and Taco Bell on the girl's behalf in federal court last year, about 13 months after the alleged assault in the Glenolden restaurant.

Resignation Ends Ability to Sue Under ERISA

Source: Shannon P. Duffy, The Legal Intelligencer
Date: July 7, 2003

A former Rite Aid Corp. executive who claims the company reneged on its promise to lay him off with a severance package has lost his court battle to enforce the deal now that a federal appeals court has held that his resignation left him with no standing to sue under ERISA. In Miller v. Rite Aid Corp., a unanimous three-judge panel found that Anthony Miller lost his status as a "participant" in the company's ERISA plan when his promised layoff was repeatedly delayed and he resigned to take a new job.

Bias Suit Entangles State's Top Trooper

Source: Larry King, Philadelphia Inquirer
Date: June 27, 2003

Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Jeffrey Miller, who has proclaimed a "zero tolerance policy" on sexual misconduct, is himself implicated in a sex-discrimination lawsuit by a female subordinate he helped oust three years ago. In September, a federal jury found that Barbara A. Wilhelm was fired from her job because she complained about sex discrimination. The jury awarded $250,000 in damages; U.S. District Judge Sylvia H. Rambo has since raised the amount to more than $277,000.

State Police Commissioner Implicated in Sex Discrimination Suit

Source: Associated Press, PhillyBurbs.com (PA)
Date: June 27, 2003

The man picked by Gov. Ed Rendell to ferret out sexual misconduct in the state police is himself implicated in a sex discrimination lawsuit. A federal jury decided in September that Barbara A. Wilhelm, 46, was fired from her job because she complained about sexism. Jeffrey Miller, who is now the state police commissioner, had been Wilhelm's boss for six weeks when he sought her removal. She had been complaining about unequal treatment and pay for about two years. Miller told The Philadelphia Inquirer for Friday's editions that he wanted Wilhelm out of his office, but he said then-Commissioner Paul Evanko made the decision to fire her on May 1, 2000, rather than transfer her.

AstraZeneca to Pay $1.2B in Medicare Fraud

Source: Shannon P. Duffy, The Legal Intelligencer
Date: June 24, 2003

A Pennsylvania whistleblower's allegations of corrupt sales practices in the pharmaceuticals industry have resulted in more than $1.2 billion in settlements with Uncle Sam -- and rewards of more than $110 million to the whistleblower. In a settlement announced Friday, AstraZeneca Inc. agreed to pay nearly $280 million in civil penalties to the federal government and an additional criminal fine of more than $63 million to resolve allegations of Medicare fraud. Friday's settlement stemmed from the same whistleblower suit that resulted in an October 2001 settlement in which TAP Pharmaceuticals Inc. agreed to pay $875 million to settle claims that it paid kickbacks to doctors and coached them to cheat Medicare to promote a prostate cancer drug.

Worker's Improper Waiver of EEOC Right Doesn't Invalidate Entire Release

Source: Shannon P. Duffy, The Legal Intelligencer
Date: June 13, 2003

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that an older worker's signature on a release promising not to pursue any lawsuits against his former employer constitutes a valid waiver even if the agreement contains a clause that prohibits the worker from bringing any charge before the EEOC. The three-judge panel found nothing to indicate "that the mere presence of that contractual language would void an otherwise knowing and voluntary waiver."

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