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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.

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.

Reminder: Avoid ageist preference talk

Rejected or terminated older employees who sue under the ADEA often try to prove age discrimination by offering as evidence management comments with an ageist bent. For example, a CEO who speaks publicly about a preference for youthful applicants or refers to employees as “old timers” or “dinosaurs” may provide the proof a fired older worker needs to win their case.

Bar offensive speech from social media

We live in the era of social media, where a shared opinion can quickly spread from a handful of contacts to millions. A post some view as offensive can have immediate consequences, turning into a public relations nightmare for the poster’s employer.

Diner ordered to dish up $1.35 million

The Empire Diner in Lansdowne, Pa., learned the hard way it’s not nice to steal your servers’ tips.

Court tosses anti-vax claim of religious exemption

Handling requests to reasonably accommodate employees’ religious beliefs or practices can be tricky because the law defines religion rather loosely. Workers with beliefs clearly far outside mainstream religions are still protected from employment discrimination.

Leave medical history out of hiring and firing decisions

Remind supervisors never to consider an applicant’s or employee’s medical history when making hiring, firing or other employment decisions. That’s true even if a worker’s medical condition may cause health insurance premiums to rise or result in frequent absences.

Ensure bosses don’t block accommodations

It’s important to train supervisors that they must honor approved disability accommodations and immediately refer all requests to modify accommodations to HR.

Steer clear of hosting unwanted festivities

Before you plan the next workplace party honoring an employee, ask whether this is something the employee wants and will appreciate. There has been a recent rash of lawsuits over such unwelcome events.

Tell bosses: Don’t pester teleworkers after hours

If you have hourly employees working from home, make sure their supervisors understand their role in preventing surprise wage-and-hour claims.