Philadelphia Employment Law

Philadelphia Employment Law

Legal Guidance and Advocacy for Philadelphia Residents in the Workplace

Philadelphia is considered the economic anchor of the greater Delaware Valley. It had an unemployment rate of 7.8% in 2014. In the same year, around 9,000 jobs were added to the Philadelphia economy. Both federal and state laws protect employees from unlawful treatment in Pennsylvania. There are certain federal laws that protect employees of larger companies with regard to discrimination and other laws that set minimum standards for all employers with regard to minimum wage, overtime, and child labor. State laws enhance these protections or provide another layer of protection, sometimes to employees of smaller employers. Whether you have suffered from discrimination in the workplace, or you are dealing with another employment matter, you should consult an experienced Philadelphia employment lawyer at Phillips & Associates.

Employment Law Overview

At Phillips & Associates, we handle discrimination litigation arising out of an employee's gender, sexual orientation, pregnancy, national origin, race or color, disability, or age. We handle both federal and state cases. The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act covers employers with at least 4 employees, while federal laws tend to protect employees working for mid-size to large employers. Federal and state laws also have an anti-retaliation component that prohibits retaliation against an employee who opposes a discriminatory employment practice, who makes a charge or testifies, or assists in an investigation, hearing, or proceeding that is held under the Act.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is prohibited under both Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA). Sexual harassment includes any unwelcome words, jokes, innuendoes, pranks, images, touching, groping, threats, or violence directed toward an employee due to his or her sex/gender. It may be perpetrated by a coworker, supervisor, client, or customer.

Race Discrimination

Race discrimination is prohibited under Title VII, § 1981, and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act. Race discrimination occurs when an employer treats a job applicant, or an employee, adversely due to his or her actual or perceived race. For example, if you were passed over for a promotion when a less qualified worker was given the job, and the reason was your race, this would be race discrimination. An employment attorney can help Philadelphia employees explore whether the reason for their adverse treatment was legitimate or a pretext for discrimination.

Sex/Gender Discrimination

Sex or Gender discrimination is prohibited under both Title VII and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA). It occurs when a job applicant or employee is treated adversely on the basis of his or her sex/gender. The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act prohibits job practices that discriminate based on sex unless a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ) exception applies. Both independent contractors and employees are protected against this type of discrimination under Pennsylvania state law.

Disability Discrimination

The federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as well as the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA) protect employees who have disabilities from workplace discrimination. Under the Pennsylvania law, an employer is not allowed to discriminate against anyone with a "non-job-related handicap or disability" — that is, a disability that does not substantially affect the employee's ability to do their essential job functions. The state law also expressly forbids discrimination against workers who use a guide or support animal.

Age Discrimination

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA) protect employees from job discrimination based on their age if they are at least 40 years old. Workers younger than age 40 do not receive protection under either law if an employer bases a job decision on their younger age.

Nationality (National Origin) Discrimination

Nationality discrimination is illegal under federal and state laws. It happens if an employer treats a job applicant, or employee, adversely based on that person’s actual or perceived nationality. Nationality discrimination is a result of an employer's stereotypes about a certain ethnicity or country of origin. In a nationality discrimination case, an employer and employee may even be from the same country or have the same ethnic background. Additionally, there may be nationality discrimination even if the employer's perception of the employee's nationality is incorrect.

Religious Discrimination

Title VII and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act both forbid religious discrimination in employment decisions. In addition, employers are required to reasonably accommodate your religious beliefs. Under the state law, an employer cannot refuse to hire and cannot terminate someone based on his or her religion, except when religion is a bona fide occupational qualification.

Pregnancy Discrimination

The federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) has amended Title VII. Under Title VII, employers that have at least 15 employees are not permitted to discriminate against a job applicant or employee based on pregnancy, childbirth, or medical conditions related to them. Under the PDA, employers are not allowed to put a significant burden on a pregnant employee that they do not put on other temporarily disabled workers. For example, if a coworker who breaks her leg, but is not pregnant, is given a more flexible schedule so that she can go to doctor's appointments, but your boss refuses to let you go to doctor's appointments for your pregnancy, our Philadelphia employment attorneys may be able to help you bring a pregnancy discrimination claim.

Sexual Orientation Discrimination

Federal and state laws in Pennsylvania do not expressly forbid sexual orientation discrimination. However, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and some federal courts have taken the position that sexual orientation discrimination is a type of sex/gender discrimination prohibited under Title VII. Additionally, Philadelphia's city law makes it illegal for employers to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation (as well as gender identity).

Wrongful Termination

In Pennsylvania, employment is at will, which means that you can be terminated for any reason or no reason. However, there are important exceptions. Employers may not fire you or lay you off for illegal reasons or reasons that violate public policy. Generally, when an employer fires you in violation of anti-discrimination laws such as Title VII or the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, this is a violation that may give rise to a wrongful termination claim. In addition, if you are terminated for not engaging in illegal activity or for refusing to help cover up illegal activity (i.e., fraudulent billing or tax evasion) you may have a claim for wrongful termination.

Hostile Work Environment

Hostile work environment harassment includes any unwelcome comments, actions, words, gestures, or pictures that generate a hostile or offensive work environment. Although sexual harassment is the type of harassment that most people associate with a hostile work environment, this type of harassment can also occur in connection with race, religion, disability, or other protected characteristics. Courts will look at the totality of the circumstances, but generally, a trivial slight will not be sufficient to constitute a hostile work environment.


Both federal and state anti-discrimination laws forbid not only discrimination but also retaliation. Retaliation can include any adverse employment action taken by an employer because the employee has complained about discrimination. For example, if you file an EEOC charge for race discrimination and are then fired, this may be retaliation.

Consult a Dedicated Employment Lawyer in the Philadelphia Area

Employment matters can be stressful and challenging. It is important to retain legal representation if you believe that you have been a victim of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation. Consult the experienced employment litigators at Phillips & Associates by calling us at (866) 229-9441 or using our online form.

Sexual Harassment
Hostile Work Environment
Wrongful Termination
Employment Discrimination

Philadelphia Office

1635 Market St #1600A
Philadelphia, PA 19103
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Phone: (866) 229-9441
Fax: (866) 229-9441

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