Most employers in Pennsylvania and around the country are required to follow the provisions of federal labor laws such as the Fair Labor Standards Act. Other laws that place restrictions on employers include the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, and it is not unheard of for workers to cite the protections provided by these laws when faced with disciplinary action or termination. When claims of this type are not backed up by compelling supporting evidence, the courts have generally given the benefit of the doubt to employers.
The federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act protects workers who are 40 years of age or older against discrimination based on their age, but courts have been inconsistent in how the law should be applied when older workers have been disproportionately affected by employer decisions. In early January 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit ruled in favor of a group of workers at a Pennsylvania company who were all over 50 years of age, but several other federal appeals courts have sided with employers in similar cases.
Pennsylvania employees are subjected to workplace harassment for many different reasons. If they are harassed at work for being a member of a protected category, they could have a cause of action against their employer for unlawful discrimination. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission publishes enforcement guidance to help educate employers about what behavior constitutes illegal harassment and discrimination.
Workplace discrimination in Pennsylvania often happens to people in minority or historically disadvantaged groups. There are also valid claims of workplace discrimination by people in majority groups. On Dec. 15, 2016, a court in California found that there was enough evidence for a reverse sexual orientation discrimination claim to proceed to trial.
Workplace sexual harassment is against the law in Pennsylvania, but it unfortunately still occurs. Employers are required to keep their workplaces free from discrimination and harassment and protect workers who are victims of either. While most employees are aware that sexual harassment at work is illegal, they may not understand what to do when the harasser is someone who holds an important contract with the company.