Tuesday, March 9, 2010

PA EMPLOYMENT LAWYER ANSWERS COMMONLY ASKED QUESTIONS

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Here are some common employment-related questions and answers [Note:  Use the Search Key to find information on almost any topic affecting Pennsylvania employees]:

I WAS NOT GIVEN BENEFITS I WAS PROMISED IN PHILADELPHIA!

If you were promised benefits after 90 days and you have not received them, then you would have a claim for breach of contract. Although you are employed "at will," and thus can be fired for any reason (unless the firing violates state or federal laws, Click Here to learn more), as long as you are employed your employer must honor its promises to pay you and to provide benefits it promised. You may want to consider making a demand upon your employer for the promised benefits, but you should speak with an attorney first on how to frame the demand, and also the pros and cons of making the demand.

CAN I BE FIRED BECAUSE I AM PREGNANT IN MALVERN?

Firing you because you are pregnant is illegal under both state and federal law.

CAN MY EMPLOYER CHANGE THE REASON FOR WHY IT FIRED ME IN NORRISTOWN?

This is a classic example of an employer trying to avoid paying unemployment benefits to a discharged employee. I have little doubt that the employer will be fighting any claim for unemployment that you may file on the grounds that you were terminated for willful misconduct. That is because if you are laid off due to lack of work,or terminated for ordinary "poor performance," the employer cannot successfully contest your claim for unemployment benefits in Pennsylvania.

CAN MY EMPLOYER WITHHOLD MY COMMISSIONS IN WEST CHESTER?

No, it is illegal. Employers are required to pay commissions when due - by the following pay period. If the employer is not paying commissions on a timely basis, the company and the people who are responsible for withholding commissions are responsible, and may have to pay penalties and your attorneys fees. See Pennsylvania’s Wage Payment and Collection Law. Unfortunately, though, Pennsylvania does not allow a wrongful discharge claim, or a retaliation claim if you will, if you are fired for complaining about this practice. However, if you complain on behalf of everyone, that could be deemed collective action under the National Labor Relations Act, which could protect you from retaliatory discharge. Best to talk to an attorney about this practice. Perhaps a letter on your behalf (and on behalf of your co-employees as well) will do the trick....

AM I ENTITLED TO BE PAID COMMISSIONS THAT CAME IN AFTER I WAS FIRED IN MEDIA?

This is a common question. Usually, you have to be employed when payment is received to be entitled to the commission. However, if the company fires you on, say, the day before payment arrives, and it knows payment is about to arrive and times it is firing to avoid paying you the commission, then you may have a case.

DOES MY EMPLOYER HAVE TO GIVE ME TWO 15 MINUTE BREAKS ON AN 8 HOUR SHIFT IN PLYMOUTH MEETING?

Pennsylvania employers do not have to provide break periods or lunch breaks to employees who are working eight hour shifts. Obviously, it is very bad management to not provide employees with such breaks, but we do see this from time to time. However, if you are working eight hours without a break, you should make sure that you were being paid for eight hours. We see a lot of companies with built in "7 1/2 hour shifts," as if they were providing their employees with either lunch breaks or break times, but in fact they really are not. Failing to pay an employee for each minute that he or she works during the day would be a violation of Pennsylvania state law, and could also implicate federal overtime laws.

DOES MY EMPLOYER HAVE TO GIVE ME A LUNCH BREAK WHEN I WORK AN 8 HOUR SHIFT IN DOWNINGTOWN?

No, unfortunately neither state nor federal law require lunch breaks or break periods. However, sometimes we see companies that do not allow their employees to take lunch, but nevertheless dock them each day for a half-hour as if they had taken lunch. This is illegal.  In other words, if you worked eight hours, you must be paid for eight hours.  And, if the amount of time you actually worked exceeds 40 hours (because in docking you for 2.5 hours you actually worked, the employer has you working 40 hours when you actually worked 42.5), then you may be entitled to overtime payments.

MY BOSS TOLD ME IF I DON’T QUIT I WILL BE FIRED IN LANSDALE – WHAT SHOULD I DO?

I do not think it is ever appropriate to quit when faced with termination. In general, an employer that gives an employee that choice is trying to gain a leg up on an unemployment claim. I counsel to let them fire you, and then deal with the separation honestly in future interviews. After all, whether you quit or are fired, an interviewer is going to ask for additional information, and you are going to have to honestly explain the circumstances. Most companies do not give out information on why a separation came about, anyway, so it will be up to you in the interview to explain the separation in any event.

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