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Employment Lawyer Network:

Susan K. Lessack (Editor)

Pepper Hamilton LLP
Pennsylvania Employment Law

(610) 640-7806

Click for Full Bio

Susan K. Lessack is a partner in the Berwyn and Philadelphia offices of Pepper Hamilton LLP. She concentrates her practice in employment counseling and employment litigation. Ms. Lessack’s experience includes counseling employers on matters related to compliance with federal and state labor and employment laws, counseling regarding employee discipline and terminations, conducting investigations of employee conduct, including harassment, training employers on their obligations under employment laws and litigation avoidance, and developing employment policies. She defends employers in litigation of employment discrimination claims, wrongful discharge claims, and claims under federal and state employment-related statutes, such as the Family and Medical Leave Act and the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Law.

Beware the high cost of tolerating a racially hostile environment: $20.5 million

A former employee has won a huge jury award over allegations that a supervisor and co-worker created a racially hostile work environment that the company failed to fix.

Discouraging even one worker from complaining violates the NLRA

The NLRA applies to just about every private-sector employer, setting strict rules for what employers can and cannot do when setting workplace rules. For example, it makes it illegal to tell employees not to discuss workplace conditions among themselves. However, until February, discussing work conditions had to involve at least two employees. Not anymore.

Cost of a one-sided investigation: $15 million

Ignoring a complaint or summarily dismissing it almost guarantees you’ll lose a lawsuit if the complaining employee decides to sue. But how you conduct that investigation is crucial. Lean too heavily towards supporting the alleged victim, and the alleged perpetrator may be the one who sues you.

Blanket refusal to accommodate leads to ADA liability

Employers cannot simply declare that a specific accommodation in all circumstances creates an undue hardship. Consider each disability case individually.

Think twice before demanding proof an employee’s religion requires accommodation

Thanks to a series of employee-friendly court decisions, workers now have a far easier time winning lawsuits alleging their employers failed to accommodate their religious beliefs and practices. Employers are greatly limited in how far they can go to require employees to prove their religious beliefs and practices require accommodations.

When it’s OK to pile on work following FMLA leave

When employees take FMLA leave, they have the right to return to the same or an equivalent position. “Equivalent” means the job has the same pay, benefits and working conditions as before. But jobs often evolve, even when the jobholder is off on FMLA leave. And sometimes, that means an employee will return to a job that’s somewhat different.

$25.6 million! Cost of scapegoating white manager for racial profiling

Back in 2018, a Starbucks manager approached two Black men waiting for a colleague and said they had to buy something or leave. An argument ensued and police were called. The two men were led away in handcuffs but released a few hours later without charges. What followed was a public relations nightmare for Starbucks, which was accused of racial profiling.

DOL wins largest FLSA verdict ever! $22 million for unpaid showers

The Department of Labor has just won the largest Fair Labor Standards Act verdict in its history. A jury awarded a group of workers $22 million for the time they spend showering after their work shifts.

Be sure you can explain business-related rationale for firing decision

Courts don’t like it when employers appear to make knee-jerk decisions. Before firing someone, step back and really think through your justification. Make sure the rationale for the termination is truly business-related. Then document your reasoning in case a court later asks why you did what you did.

Get facts straight when ranking candidates

Careful documentation can be a two-edged sword. Notes may reveal efforts to make one candidate look weaker than she really is if it becomes clear that the assessors got the facts supporting their conclusions wrong. That’s what happened in a recent case.