The federal government, most states (including Pennsylvania), and several cities (including Philadelphia) have passed laws that prohibit employers from discriminating against their employees based on certain characteristics. Under such laws, employers may not treat an employee within such a “protected class” less favorably than a similarly situated employee outside of that protected class unless the employer can establish a legitimate business reason for the differing treatment.
Some of the characteristics that may not be used to discriminate against employees include:
- National origin
- Sexual orientation or gender identity (so far, such protection arises under certain local ordinances only, although the law in this area is rapidly developing)
Pregnancy discrimination is also against federal and most states’ laws.
Most of the above-prohibited bases for discrimination apply in situations of “reverse” discrimination as well. For example, it is just as illegal to favor female applicants over male applicants as it is to favor male applicants over female applicants. It is just as much a violation to refuse to promote employees simply because they are white as it is to refuse to promote employees just because they are black. (One exception to this is that there is not yet a claim allowable for reverse age discrimination.)
If you think you have been subject to illegal discrimination in the workplace, contact employment discrimination lawyer Steve Kunkle of Kunkle and Sennett in West Chester, PA.
Protection From Retaliation
Every law that prohibits discrimination based on a protected characteristic or classification also prohibits retaliation against any employee who has asserted a claim of such discrimination, as well as any witnesses who have provided evidence of such discrimination. Such protection extends not only to the employee who has complained of such discrimination but also to a family member who may work for the same employer. Although this prohibition against retaliation does not guarantee that an employer faced with a claim of prohibited discrimination will not engage in retaliation, it does provide an avenue for recovery that often can be easier to prove than the underlying discrimination under complaint.
Other Statutory Employment Protections
There are several other laws that provide various kinds of protection to employees.
Protection From Sexual Harassment and Sexually Hostile Work Environment
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1963 (“Title VII”) prohibits harassment on the basis of gender (this has been held to include not only male against female harassment, but also the reverse, as well as male against male and female against female harassment).
Included within this Title VII ban on harassment is a prohibition against sexually hostile work environments. Sexual harassment is among the most common form—and most widely misunderstood—types of discrimination. It also imposes among the most intricate requirements on its victims, including a requirement that the employee asserting a claim for sexual harassment comply with the employer’s internal complaint procedure before pursuing a case in court. Nevertheless, the tide has been turning for the past decade, and courts and juries have become more cognizant about them and more willing to punish employers who permit it to occur.
Equal Pay Act Protections
The Equal Pay Act is a federal law that prohibits an employer from using gender as a basis for unequal pay for the same or substantially similar jobs. Employers are permitted to use specific characteristics, such as years of service or training and educational background, to differentiate in salaries paid to male and female employees engaged in the same work.
Pregnancy Discrimination Act Protections
The Pregnancy Discrimination Amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1963 (PDA) is a federal law that prohibits employers from discriminating against female employees on the basis of pregnancy. In general, with certain exceptions, the PDA prevents employers from refusing to provide short-term pregnancy leave and from refusing to permit employees from returning after giving birth.
Family and Medical Leave Act Protections
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that requires covered employers (those with more than 50 employees within a 75 mile radius) to allow eligible employees (those with at least one year of service and 1,250 hours worked in the past year) to have up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a calendar year for their own or their family member’s serious medical condition. In general, with certain exceptions, the FMLA requires such employers to provide such leave, even in increments as small as part of a day (e.g., to go to chemotherapy treatments). The FMLA also requires employers to permit employees to return from FMLA leave once they are cleared to do so by their healthcare providers.
There are federal and state laws that provide varying degrees of protection to employees who make good faith claims (“blow the whistle”) concerning their employers misuse of public funds or other kinds of wrongful conduct. Generally, this wrongful conduct has to involve taxpayer dollars, and we typically see it in the field of Medicare or Medicaid fraud by healthcare providers, as well as securities law violations, but it can occur in a myriad of employment situations. A particularly active emerging area involves employer coverups and failures to disclose security breaches resulting in large-scale exposure of customers’ private information.
Do You Believe You Have Been Subject to Employment Discrimination or Retaliation?
Whether the discrimination involved hiring practices before your employment started or after you have been employed for 20 years, whether it occurred in the refusal to consider you for a promotion or in the termination of your employment, Steve Kunkle has seen virtually every kind of discrimination prohibited under the law. He can advise you with your claims or during your employment, such as with discrimination in compensation or promotions.
As a practical matter, the law still strongly favors employers, and these kinds of cases are time-consuming and expensive for the plaintiff’s employment lawyers to bring to trial. Having said that, Steve has been representing employees in such matters since 1989, after representing employers on the other side of such cases with a major national law firm since 1982. You can expect honest, understandable, and helpful advice if you contact Steve Kunkle, and you will receive top-quality legal representation if your matter is one that Kunkle and Sennett is able to take on.
Contact West Chester, PA employment discrimination attorney Steve Kunkle for evaluation of your case and to find out if you might be eligible to recover compensation.