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Employment Law

When Do I Need to Talk to a Pennsylvania Employment Law Lawyer? The 6 Most Important Employment Law Situations to Discuss with Your Attorney

Need a Pennsylvania Attorney to Handle Your Employment Law Concerns? We Are Here to Help!

When a problem happens at work, it may be difficult to know right away if you need an attorney.  Although we all hope that we will never find ourselves in this situation, employers often do violate their employees’ rights, and in doing so, take illegal actions against their employees.

Employment law disputes are filled with uncertainty.  Am I going to lose my job?  Do I have any defenses?  If I lose my job, will this affect my chances to get another job?

Don’t worry – you do have options. We are here to answer these questions, and to help eliminate that uncertainty.  Contact The Law Firm of Fenters Ward by filling out our contact form or by calling 877-259-WARD for all your employment law concerns. Fenters Ward handles employment law cases in all Pennsylvania counties.

When to Talk to a Pennsylvania Employment Attorney

So, when do you need an attorney for your Pennsylvania employment law dispute? We at The Law Firm of Fenters Ward help employees whose employers have violated their rights in the following situations:

  • Your employer refused to pay you overtime.
  • You are concerned your employer illegally terminated you.
  • You believe you were passed over for a promotion based on your gender, sexual orientation, age, race, national origin, or other protected characteristic.
  • Your employer terminated you after you reported wrongdoing.
  • You have concerns about how you are being treated in the workplace.
  • You believe you were passed over for a job due to a criminal record that would not affect your ability to perform the job requirements.
  • You have experienced quid pro quo sexual harassment or a hostile workplace.
  • You were terminated and are unable to obtain a job due to a non-competition agreement or a non-solicitation agreement.
  • You were terminated after an injury or becoming disabled.

We take on employment law cases involving these and numerous other violations.  If you or someone you love is concerned about a violation of rights, do not hesitate: Take Immediate Action.  We handle cases in Pittsburgh, Erie, Harrisburg, Philadelphia and everywhere in between.

If you do not contact an attorney right away, you will not know what the next steps are in righting the wrong caused to you by your employer.  You could miss documenting important evidence or miss out on gathering important witnesses to back up your employment law claim.

Worse yet, you could time out your claim by running the statute of limitations.  The statute of limitations governs the maximum amount of time after an event occurs that you can bring a lawsuit.  And if you wait too long, you won’t be able to recover at all.

But don’t panic yet – we are here to help.  For your reference, we have outlined the most common employment law claims.  Read on for more information about potential claims you or someone you know may bring against your employer.

Employment Discrimination in Pennsylvania

Under Pennsylvania law it is illegal for an employer to discriminate against a worker based on a protected characteristic. Under the law, employers are prohibited against discrimination based on age, race, sex and gender, religion, national origin, or disability.

The Supreme Court recently ruled that sexual orientation and transgender status fall within the protected characteristic of sex. The law also prevents your employer from terminating you because of any of the above characteristics.

Discrimination can take many forms.  Some common examples are:

  • Being passed over for a promotion because of a protected characteristic;
  • Being treated differently in the workplace because of your protected characteristic; or
  • Being terminated from your job because of your protected characteristic.

 

If you have experienced any of these forms of discrimination in the workplace, you may have a Pennsylvania employment law discrimination claim against your employer. It is illegal for your employer to factor in any of these characteristics in determining the treatment that you receive in your workplace.

Recovering in Pennsylvania

Under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA), it is illegal for an employer to discriminate on the basis of:

  1. Race;
  2. Color;
  3. Creed;
  4. Religion;
  5. Ancestry;
  6. Age (40+);
  7. Sex;
  8. National origin;
  9. Non-job related disability;
  10. Known association with a disabled individual;
  11. Possession of a diploma based on passing a general education development (GED) test; and
  12. Willingness or refusal to participate in abortion or sterilization.

 

Employers are prohibited from using any of these characteristics in any job-related decisions.  This includes hiring decisions, firing decisions, and treatment in the workplace.  If you have experienced discrimination from your Pennsylvania employer as an in-state employee, you may be entitled to recovery when you bring an employment law claim against your employer.

Federal Remedies

But what if you don’t work or live in Pennsylvania?  Do you still have options?

The answer to that question is YES.  Similar to the PHRA, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination based on:

  1. Race;
  2. Color;
  3. Religion;
  4. Sex (including sexual orientation and transgender identity); and
  5. National origin.

Employers are not permitted to use any of the above characteristics in a discriminatory way.  Thus, if you do not live or work in Pennsylvania, you are still able to recover on the basis of this discrimination.

However, this does not mean that if you bring a claim under the PHRA that you are unable to bring a claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights of 1964.  You are able to file an employment law claim under both if you wish to do so.

Disability Discrimination

Pennsylvania employers are prohibited from discriminating against individuals with disabilities in the workplace.  Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), people with disabilities are entitled to access to the same employment opportunities and benefits available to people without disabilities.

Employers also must provide reasonable accommodations to qualified applicants to a job or existing employees.  A “reasonable accommodation” is a change to accommodate disabled employees so that they are able to do their job without too much difficulty or expense.

Unfortunately, this employment law applies only to employers who have 15 or more employees.  Those who work for smaller employers are therefore unable to recover under the ADA.

If you are a disabled individual whose employer refused to provide them with reasonable accommodations on the job, or if you believe your employer terminated you based on your disability, you may have an employment law claim.

Retaliatory Termination

Pennsylvania employers are also prohibited from engaging in what is known as retaliatory termination. This is a broad term,as many things can be considered retaliatory.  For example, it may occur when:

  • An employee reports a concern about the workplace to a higher up or perhaps even a federal agency such as OSHA or the EEOC;
  • An employee files for unemployment;
  • An employee asks for time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA); or
  • An employee suddenly becomes injured and instead of responding appropriately, the employer fires the employee;
  • An employee is terminated as a result of the employee enforcing any of their rights.

 

There are specific protections in place in Pennsylvania law to prevent employers from being able to retaliate.  It does not matter if the employer gives another supposed reason for your termination; this is what is known as pretext and it is not allowed by law. That is what we call ‘pretext’ for retaliatory termination, and it can be challenged in court.

If the real reason that you were fired was because of a report that you made or a concern that you reported, that is an illegal action.  You may have a Pennsylvania employment law claim against your employer in this situation.

Unpaid Wages or Commissions

In Pennsylvania, it is illegal for your boss to not pay you your final paycheck.  Under the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Law (WPCL), employees who are owed payment have the legal right to force their employers to pay them wages they have already earned.

But what is considered wages? In Pennsylvania, wages are defined as all the earnings of an employee, regardless of whether determined on:

  1. Time;
  2. Piece;
  3. Commission; or
  4. Other method of calculation.

 

This means that even if you were paid based on job performance, you are still able to recover the wages that your employer owes you.  And in addition, to lost wages, in an employment law claim, you are also able to recover “fringe benefits,” including:

  • Separation pay;
  • Unpaid vacation, holiday, or guaranteed pay; and
  • Any other amount to be paid pursuant to an agreement.

Pennsylvania Commissioned Sales Representative Act (PCSRA)

But what if you work exclusively with wholesalers?  Will this preclude you from recovery?

No! Under the Pennsylvania Commissioned Sales Representative Act, if you are a sales representative who works on commission who contracts with a principal to solicit orders from retailers, your principal is required to pay you within 14 days of your termination. In other words, this act only applies to sales representatives that earn commissions when selling to ‘wholesalers’ in Pennsylvania.

 

According to the PCSRA, a principal is any person who does all of the following:

  1. Engages in the business of manufacturing, producing, importing or distributing a product for sale to customers who purchase such products for resale;
  2. Utilizes sales representatives to solicit orders for such product; and
  3. Compensates sales representatives, in whole or in part, by commission.

But how do you know if you count as a sales representative?  The PCRSA defines a sales representative as “[a] person who contracts with a principal to solicit wholesale orders from retailers rather than consumers and who is compensated, in whole or in part, by commission.”  43 Pa. Stat. § 1471.  However, it specifically excludes persons who place orders or purchases for “his own account for resale” or employees of principals. Id.

If you recognize yourself or someone you know in this definition, you may be eligible to file a Pensnylvania employment law claim and regain your lost commission.

Criminal Records & Employment Decisions

Under Pennsylvania law, is also illegal for an employer to use your criminal record as a reason not to hire you.  If you are applying for a job, a potential employer is not allowed to use your criminal record unless the crime would affect your ability to successfully do the job.

And if the employer makes this decision, it is required to notify you in writing that your criminal record played a role. If the employer fails to notify you that your criminal record played a role in its decision, you may have a legal claim against your employer.

This is governed by a law known as CHRIA, or the Pennsylvania Criminal History Records and Information Act.  Unfortunately, CHRIA only covers  hiring decisions.  This means that if you were fired from a job because of your criminal record, you cannot bring a claim under this Act.

But don’t panic, you may still have options.  Depending on how old your criminal record is, it may still be illegal for your boss to use it as a reason to fire you.  Courts have held that criminal records as recent as seven years old are too old to accurately reflect an employee’s trustworthiness.

This is especially true if you have been in current job for a long time before getting fired for your criminal record.   Employers are required by law to consider your more recent trustworthiness more important than an old criminal record.  This means that if you were fired due to a criminal background check, you may be able to bring an employment law claim against your employer.

Fair Credit Reporting Act

When you apply for a job, sometimes your future employer will want more information on you as a candidate.  To find out more about your background, they will hire someone to do a “background report” on you and see what turns up.

Although many people expect this report to contain a criminal background check, you may be surprised to learn that your credit report may also be part of the background report.  If this thought scares you, take a deep breath – there are specific protections in the law.

Before getting the report, the employer is required by law under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) to tell you that they might use the information in their decision, and ask you permission.  You aren’t required to give your permission, but if you don’t the employer might use this as a reason to pass over your application.

Though the employer may do so, the employer is not permitted to conduct a background report on you without your express permission.  If a potential employer has done this, don’t hesitate to contact us.  We at the Law Firm of Fenters Ward are here to help you bring this employment law claim.

 

But what if you give permission and the employer uses it as a reason to not hire you?  While the employer is allowed to do so, legally they are required to give you a copy of the report and a “Summary of Rights.”  This “Summary of Rights” provides you with information on how to contact the company that provided the report, in case a mistake has been made.

If the employer has not provided you with a copy of the report and a “Summary of Rights,” this is against the law. You may have an employment law claim where the Law Firm of Fenters Ward can assist in any Pennsylvania employment law claim or lawsuit.

Let Us Win Your Next Fight

The Law Firm of Fenters Ward has been serving all 67 counties in the state of Pennsylvania for the past 5 years. Succeeding in an employment lawsuit without a lawyer is virtually impossible.  But our talented employment law attorneys are here to help with all your employment concerns.  Call our law firm at 877-259-WARD or visit us at www.fentersward.com.

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