Discrimination & Harassment

  • Race
  • Gender Identity/ Expression
  • Religion
  • National Origin
  • Gender/Sex
  • Age
  • Sexual Harrassment
  • Disability
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Pregnancy
  • Breastfeeding in the Workplace
  • Genetic Information

    Have you been discriminated against or harassed?

    Most people in Pennsylvania and New Jersey are employed on an “at will” basis, meaning that an employer can terminate an employee for any reason. However, there are laws that prohibit private employers, state and local governments, employment agencies, and labor unions from discriminating against employees based on gender, age, race, national origin, religion, or disability. If you believe your employer has treated you differently because you belong to one of these groups you may have a basis to take legal action.

    Each client’s situation is unique and requires careful evaluation to determine the best course of action. Solutions to discrimination or harassment issues can include developing an exit strategy from the company, negotiating a settlement, and/or filing a claim in state or federal court.

  • Race

    State and federal law prohibit employers from discriminating against employees based on race. An employer may not make employment decisions about hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, training, or benefits and other terms, conditions or privileges of employment based on an employee’s race.

    Our attorneys have successfully brought and defended racial discrimination claims in the federal and state courts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey as well as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.

  • Gender Identity/Expression

    Federal and state law in Pennsylvania do not specifically state that transgender individuals are members of a protected class. However, in some instances federal and state law do provide protection by prohibiting employers from discriminating against individuals who do not conform to sex-stereotypes.

    Note: An administrative order issued in Pennsylvania bans gender identity/expression discrimination by public employers.

    In New Jersey an employers may not discriminate against an employee because of the individual’s gender identity/expression. An employer may not make employment decisions about hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, training, benefits and other terms, conditions, or privileges of employment based on an employee’s gender identity/expression.

  • Religion

    State and federal law prohibits employers from discriminating against employees based on religion. An employer may not make employment decisions about hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, training, benefits and other terms, conditions or privileges of employment based on the individual’s religion.

    The law protects individuals who belong to traditional organized religions (ex., Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism) as well as individuals who have genuinely held religious, ethical or moral beliefs.

    It is also unlawful to harass a person because of his or her religion. Harassment can occur in different forms, including but not limited to offensive/derogatory remarks. In order for the harassment to be considered a hostile or offensive work environment the harassment has to be frequent or severe.

    Additionally, an employer may also be required to provide a reasonable accommodation for an employee’s religious practices, such as observance of the Sabbath. Reasonable accommodations are adjustments to job duties or schedule made with the specific needs of the individual employee in mind.

    Our attorneys have successfully brought and defended religious discrimination claims in the federal and state courts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey as well as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.

  • National Origin

    State and federal law prohibit an employer from discriminating against an employee because of his/her national origin. An employer may not make employment decisions about hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, training, benefits and other terms, conditions or privileges of employment based on national origin.

    Individuals cannot be discriminated against because they are married to or associated with a person of a certain national origin or because of the individual’s connection with an ethnic organization or group.

    It is also unlawful to harass a person because of his or her national origin. Harassment can occur in different forms, including but not limited to offensive/derogatory remarks. In order for the harassment to create a hostile or offensive work environment the harassment has to be frequent or severe.

    Our attorneys have successfully brought and defended national origin discrimination claims in the federal and state courts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey as well as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.

  • Gender/Sex

    Gender/sex discrimination occurs when an employer treats an applicant or employee unfavorably because of that individual’s sex/gender. An employer may not make employment decisions about hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, training, or benefits and other terms, conditions or privileges of employment based on gender.

    Gender/sex discrimination can also occur when an individual is subjected to harassment because of his or her gender/sex. (See also Sexual Harrassment and Sexual Orientation.)

    Our attorneys have successfully brought and defended gender/sex discrimination claims in the federal and state courts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey as well as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.

  • Age

    When an employer treats an older employee differently, it doesn’t necessarily indicate that age discrimination has occurred. Age discrimination occurs when an employer gives preferential treatment to a younger employee or applicant, putting an older employee/applicant at a disadvantage. Age discrimination can also occur when an employer takes direct adverse action towards an older employee. Age discrimination can occur during the job application process and in relation to hiring, firing, advancement, job assignments, compensation, job training, benefits and other terms, conditions or privileges of employment.

    Our attorneys have successfully brought and defended age discrimination claims in the federal and state courts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey as well as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.

  • Sexual Harrassment

    It is illegal to harass a person because of that person’s sex. Sexual harassment can include unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical communication of a sexual nature. Sexual harassment can also occur when offensive remarks are made about a person’s gender. For example, making offensive comments about women in general can be a form of sexual harassment.

    The victim of sexual harassment can be male or female and sexual harassment can involve people of the same gender or different genders. A consensual sexual relationship may become sexual harassment if one party initiates a “break up” or otherwise ends the relationship.

    In order to make a claim that sexual harassment has created a hostile or offensive work environment, the harassment must be frequent or severe.

    Our attorneys have successfully brought and defended sexual harassment claims in the federal and state courts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey as well as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.

  • Disability

    It is illegal for employers to discriminate against qualified individuals with physical or mental disabilities in job application procedures or in regard to hiring, firing, promotions, pay, job assignment, training, or benefits and other terms, conditions or privileges of employment. When an employer makes an unfavorable employment decision based on an individual’s disability, the employer may be violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.

    Employers are also required to provide a reasonable accommodation to a qualified employee or applicant as long as the accommodation would not impose an “undue hardship” on the employer’s business. Reasonable accommodations are adjustments to job duties or schedule made with the specific needs of the individual applicant or employee in mind.

    If an employer fails to provide a reasonable accommodation to a qualified individual this might also be a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

    Our attorneys have successfully brought and defended disability discrimination claims in the federal and state courts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey as well as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.

  • Sexual Orientation

    Sexual orientation is not a protected class under federal law or Pennsylvania law. Some cities and municipalities in Pennsylvania protect employees from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. In addition, lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals can bring sex discrimination claims that include allegations of sexual harassment or unfavorable treatment caused by the person’s non-conformance with gender-stereotypes.

    Note: An administrative order issued in Pennsylvania bans sexual orientation discrimination by public employers.

    In New Jersey, an employer cannot discriminate against an employee because of that individual’s sexual orientation. Thus, an employer may not make employment decisions about hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, training, benefits and other terms, conditions, or privileges of employment based on an employee’s sexual orientation.

  • Pregnancy

    State and federal law prohibit employers from discriminating against women based on pregnancy. An employer may not make employment decisions about hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, training, benefits and other terms, conditions or privileges of employment because an employee is pregnant.

    If a woman is temporarily unable to perform her job duties because of a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth, the employer must treat her in the same way as any other temporarily disabled employee.

    In some cases impairment caused by pregnancy or childbirth may qualify as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. In that case, the employer may have to provide the female employee with a reasonable accommodation, allowing her to perform her job while she is pregnant.

    It is also unlawful to harass a woman because of pregnancy, childbirth or medical condition associated with pregnancy or childbirth. Harassment can occur in different forms, including but not limited to offensive remarks. In order for the harassment to create a hostile or offensive work environment the harassment has to be frequent or severe.

    Our attorneys have successfully brought and defended pregnancy discrimination claims in the federal and state courts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey as well as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.

  • Breastfeeding in the Workplace

    The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act provides immediate protections to mothers who return to work while breastfeeding. All employers must provide breastfeeding employees with “reasonable break time” and a private place other than a bathroom to express breast milk during the workday. Employers are required to extend this accommodation until an employee’s child turns the age of one.The law applies to non-exempt (i.e., hourly) employees. The law does not apply to exempt (salaried) employees. Employers are not required to pay their employee for the time spent expressing milk. If an employer, however, provides its non-exempt employees with a paid break, an employee is allowed to use this time to express milk. This new legislation applies to all employers.Note: Employers with fewer than 50 employees do not have to comply with this law if they can establish that doing so would cause “an undue hardship” by causing significant difficulty or expense.

  • Genetic Information

    Due to fears that people might forego medically necessary genetic testing if the results could negatively impact insurance eligibility or employment prospects, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) was passed in 2008. GINA prohibits employers from using an employee’s genetic information to make decisions about hiring, firing, promotions, pay, job assignment, training, or benefits and other terms, conditions or privileges of employment.