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Collective Action During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Essential Workers Have the Right to Protest Unsafe Conditions In the midst of the pandemic, we rely on essential workers—healthcare professionals, sanitation workers, grocery store employees, long-haul truckers, transportation employees, warehouse and mail delivery workers, and more—to keep our society afloat. But many of the workers deemed most essential to our survival feel that they aren’t getting enough protections in the workplace—and they have very legitimate concerns. In recent weeks and months, employees at companies such as WalMart and Target, Amazon, Instacart, and hospitals across the country have planned and led walkouts, strikes, and other protests—demanding hazard pay, access to PPE, and other improvements to their working conditions. However, employee walkouts during the coronavirus pandemic come up against the fact that society needs these employees to keep working. It’s still not clear how the extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic will affect court cases where essential workers’ rights to protest are challenged. If you’re considering planning a walkout to protest unsafe conditions at your workplace, here are a few things you should know. Your protections under the NLRA may vary Under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), collective action to protest unsafe working conditions is considered protected activity. But just how [...]

By |2020-06-04T21:04:20+00:00June 4th, 2020|Wage Theft & Unpaid Wages|0 Comments

New Guidance Regarding COVID-19 and the ADA

Which ADA Rights Apply During a Pandemic? In earlier articles, we discussed how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applied to workers’ rights during the COVID-19 epidemic—especially the “reasonable accommodations” requirement for workers considered at high risk. At the time, the picture wasn’t clear—and the best we could do was provide an educated guess. But recently, the EEOC released updated guidelines on the ADA’s provisions—specifically as they relate to the COVID-19 pandemic. The guidance is written more toward employers than employees, and was originally developed in 2009 to address employment questions that arose during an earlier influenza pandemic. It’s been updated to reflect current events. Here’s what we know based on these new guidelines. The ADA’s role during a pandemic According to the guidance, the ADA should do three things in the midst of a pandemic: Regulate what questions employers can ask about applicants’ and employees’ health conditions, and prevent them from making hiring decisions based on those conditions. Prohibit employers from keeping employees with disabilities from the workplace unless they are at risk of serious harm or present a direct threat to others. Require employers to provide reasonable accommodations for those with disabilities as long as it doesn’t constitute [...]

By |2020-05-28T23:58:06+00:00May 28th, 2020|Americans with Disabilities Act Claims|0 Comments

US Women’s Soccer Team Lost Their Equal Pay Claim

What Happened—and What’s Next On March 8, 2019, the US Women’s National Soccer Club (USWNSC) filed a lawsuit against the US Soccer Federation (USSF) for equal pay under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act as well as the Equal Pay Act. The 28 players bringing the suit claimed the USSF has subjected them to “institutionalized gender discrimination” by not paying the women’s team equally to the men’s team, and asked for both a raise and back pay. Originally, the trial was scheduled to occur on May 5. But then the coronavirus pandemic happened, and it was rescheduled for June 16. However, on May 1, Judge Gary Klausner, of the U.S. District Court for Central California in Los Angeles, rejected the central tenet of their lawsuit: that the women’s team was paid less than the men’s team. This might sound outrageous, but it’s not altogether surprising. The USWNSC always had a higher burden of proof than the USSF. They had to prove that they made less than the men’s team for the same job, and the pay disparity was due to gender discrimination. All the USSF had to do was disprove one of these assertions—that the women are not in [...]

By |2020-05-21T21:49:53+00:00May 21st, 2020|Workplace Discrimination|0 Comments

Can You Refuse to Work Without Protective Gear?

The Coronavirus Pandemic Is Forcing Workers to Make Difficult Choices In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, millions of workers throughout the US are being asked to make a difficult choice: forego a paycheck, or go to work and risk contracting coronavirus. Personal protective equipment such as N-95 masks, gloves, and gowns are important tools in protecting workers from exposure to coronavirus. However, our nation is currently in the grip of a massive shortage in such equipment. As a result, many workers—including healthcare workers at the front lines—are being asked to put their health at risk in the workplace. So, if your employer does not provide you with protective gear—and refuses to let you bring your own to work—can you refuse to work under such conditions? What OSHA Says About Working in Unsafe Conditions We already have laws in the US to protect workers from unsafe conditions at work. Under OSHA regulations, you have the right to refuse to perform a task at work if all of these conditions are met: There is an imminent danger of injury or death present. You have asked your employer to eliminate the danger, and they haven’t. There isn’t time to request an OSHA [...]

By |2020-04-30T22:14:01+00:00April 30th, 2020|Wrongful Termination & Retaliation|0 Comments

What’s in the “Families First” Coronavirus Response Act?

Paid Leave for American Workers—With Very Broad Exceptions Public health experts agree that all workers who can stay home should stay home. For some, that means working from home. But what about those workers who can’t work from home—and for whom staying home means foregoing a regular paycheck? This situation puts workers in a bind: stay home and suffer financially, or come to work—possibly with coronavirus symptoms, possibly as a silent carrier—and risk spreading the virus to others. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) was established on March 18, 2020 to deal with this problem. It provides crucial aid, including paid leave, for employees. Those benefits kicked in on April 1. This legislation is better than nothing—but it has significant exemptions. Here’s what you need to know about your rights to paid leave under the FFCRA. What the benefits include Under the new law, there are several types of benefits that employees can access, as long as they work for a qualifying employer: Two weeks of paid sick leave, up to 80 hours in total, at your regular pay rate if you’re experiencing symptoms, or you’re in quarantine under government orders or the advice of a healthcare professional. Two [...]

By |2020-04-24T00:08:59+00:00April 24th, 2020|Family and Medical Leave Act Claims|0 Comments

Can You Refuse to Come to Work in the Midst of a Pandemic?

And Can Your Employer Fire You If You Do? In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, as some workers self-quarantine and adjust to working from home, others are continually asked to put their health on the line to keep essential services running—including warehouse and mail delivery workers, grocery store employees, utility and sanitation workers, transportation workers, and healthcare professionals. And with a severe shortage of personal protective equipment such as gloves, masks, face shields, and gowns, essential employees often feel that coming to work means taking an unacceptable risk of exposure. But can you refuse to come to work to avoid the risk of contracting COVID-19—and if you do, is your employer allowed to fire you or retaliate against you? The rules, laws, and recommendations in this area are constantly shifting. But as of this writing, here’s what we know. Your protections under existing OSHA regulations Under pre-existing OSHA regulations, you can refuse to participate in work if the situation meets these three criteria: Doing so would put you in immediate danger of injury or death. You’ve already informed your employer of the risk and they’ve done nothing about it. There isn’t time to go through the proper OSHA channels [...]

By |2020-04-16T21:00:09+00:00April 16th, 2020|Wrongful Termination & Retaliation|0 Comments

When Your Employer Doesn’t Pay What it Owes You

The PAWPCL Protects Your Rights Getting fired is stressful enough. But what happens if your employer fires you—and then never sends your last paycheck, or withholds your severance pay? It’s not supposed to happen, but it does. And when it happens in Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Law (PAWPCL) is there to ensure you get paid what you’re owed. What does the PAWPCL do? The PAWPCL allows employees to recover wages they’ve earned and that their employer has withheld. Depending on the situation and the employer agreement, this may include: Unpaid wages Severance pay Paid time off that you’ve accrued, but not used Commissions and bonuses you’ve earned Health and other benefits The PAWPCL requires all employers to tell their employees, at the time of hiring, about their compensation and benefits—and to pay employees on a regular schedule. Under the law, you get a regular, designated payday—the first day of the month, for example—and your employer can’t change it without proper notice, even if you’ve been let go. If you don’t receive your last payment on the proper day, your employer may be in violation of the law. What happens if my employer withholds wages? If your employer [...]

By |2020-03-20T02:05:54+00:00March 20th, 2020|Wage Theft & Unpaid Wages|0 Comments

Severance Agreements Can Be a Windfall—But Also a Minefield

Always Have Your Severance Agreement Reviewed by an Attorney Being laid off can be devastating—but a good severance package can take the edge off. Severance packages continue the relationship between employer and employee for a period of time beyond the termination of employment—for instance, by extending your benefits and giving you severance pay. But they can also impose certain terms, on both employer and employee. And those terms are often more restrictive to the employee. That’s why it’s crucial to have an experienced employment lawyer review your severance agreement before you sign it—no matter what. Here are nine pitfalls your attorney can help you avoid: Less money than you deserve Your employer may be under-paying—and a lawyer can help you negotiate for more. No other earned benefits Are you owed earned sick days or vacation time? Make sure your employer includes those in its agreement. No continued health insurance One of the most frightening things about losing your job is losing your health insurance along with it. Sure, you can buy coverage under COBRA—but that’s often very expensive. As an alternative, you may be able to negotiate staying on your company insurance for a time. Non-compete agreements  These say that [...]

By |2020-03-13T21:51:01+00:00March 13th, 2020|Severance Agreement Review|0 Comments

Why Signing an Arbitration Agreement Could Come Back to Haunt You

Think Carefully Before Signing Away Your Right to Sue You just got hired—and you’re thrilled about your new job. But when you receive your new employee packet, tucked in there with the rest of the documents you have to sign is an arbitration agreement. It says you can’t take your employer to court. Should you sign it? And what will the ramifications be if you do—or don’t? What is an arbitration agreement? Asking new employees to sign an arbitration clause is a growing trend. When you sign one, you’re essentially signing away your right to sue your employer over issues such as breach of contract, discrimination, or wrongful termination. Under most agreements, if you have a conflict with your employer, you have to settle it in arbitration rather than at court. This might not sound so bad—until you realize that there are several reasons why this puts employees at a disadvantage. One reason is that the arbitration process isn’t decided by a jury. It’s decided by a third party—usually a retired judge or legal professional. This is not always as favorable for employees, as juries are frequently made up of rank-and-file employees themselves who tend to sympathize with the employee [...]

By |2020-03-07T00:20:30+00:00March 7th, 2020|At-Will Employment|0 Comments

You Talk to Investigators About Workplace Harassment. Then You’re Fired.

It’s Unlawful, but It Happens—All Too Often Harassment and discrimination are unlawful in workplaces throughout the United States. However, for these laws to be enforced, somebody has to report the violation and participate in an investigation. Under the law, you’re supposed to be able to do both these things without reprisals. However, retaliation is common in American workplaces. In fact, it’s the most frequent charge brought against employers, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. What’s protected under the law? Under federal law, there are certain protected activities that you’re supposed to be able to do without retaliation. These include: Complaining, to the EEOC or anyone else, about harassment or discrimination in the workplace—even if your claim turns out not to be true, as long as you made it in good faith. Cooperating in an EEOC investigation, or serving as a witness during litigation or internal investigations. Complaining about safety violations, fraud, or other unlawful activity in the workplace. Opposing discrimination in the workplace, reporting on it, or participating in an investigation. State laws often go further in protecting employees’ rights to perform certain activities without retaliation. In Pennsylvania, the courts are inclined to protect employees who: Refuse to break [...]

By |2020-02-21T03:19:28+00:00February 21st, 2020|Workplace Discrimination|0 Comments