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Allegheny County medical malpractice lawyer

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court is considering retraction of decades-old restraints on medical malpractice lawsuits. The decision to do so could make it easier for plaintiffs to sue their doctor if they feel negligence and wrongdoing were committed. Meanwhile, some say such a move would have catastrophic consequences and upend the system. 

Background of the Issue

In Pennsylvania during the 1990s and early 2000s, the issue of medical malpractice was hotly contested. Back then, the number of civil lawsuits filed against doctors was much higher than it is now. The reason for this was that state law allowed for lawsuits to be commenced anywhere the plaintiff or defendant had a personal or professional connection. The attorney for the plaintiff would typically select a district where they were most likely to get a favorable jury. However, many thought this practice was unfair to doctors, calling it "venue shopping," and claiming that it encouraged unnecessary lawsuits against medical practitioners.

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pittsburgh personal Injury lawyerThe ability to prove negligence is one of the most critical factors needed to win compensation in a personal injury lawsuit. It must be proven that the at-fault person had a particular duty of care to you and that they breached that duty. In other words, you have to prove that the party you want to sue acted negligently in some way and that you suffered substantial injuries as a direct result of that negligence. 

Examples of Negligence or Breach of Duty of Care

Car accidents are one of the most common bases for a personal injury lawsuit. Drivers have a duty of care to other people on the street to drive with reasonable care and obey traffic laws. If a pedestrian lawfully crosses a street on a green light in a designated crosswalk and a driver on the cross street runs a red light and strikes the pedestrian, the driver would be considered at fault. 

Similarly, a business owner has a duty of care to their customers to maintain their facilities in a reasonably safe condition. If a customer suffered a severe head injury because an improperly-secured shelf fell, the store owner would likely be held liable for the customer’s injuries because they had a duty of care to make sure that their premises liability were free of dangerous hazards.

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Wexford religious discrimination lawyerThe EEOC processed 20% more religious employment discrimination cases in 2017 than 2007, while total discrimination cases rose just 2% over the same 10-year period. As a result, employers have become more cautious in their handling of religion-based requests for accommodations and exceptions to long-standing workplace policies. Title VII of the U.S. Civil Rights Act protects all aspects of religious observance, practice, and belief. 

Workplace Policies With Disparate Impact Based on Religion

Religious employment discrimination cases often involve workplace policies that have a disparate adverse impact on people of a particular religion. For example, suppose an employer requires workers to be able to work any day of the week. That policy would have a disparate impact on people whose religion prohibits working on a holy day. Similarly, a workplace policy that requires workers to be clean-shaven and to wear a uniform consisting of shorts and a short-sleeved shirt can have a disparate impact on men whose religion requires them to wear a beard and women whose religion requires modest dress.

Employer Accommodations Required for Religious Reasons

Suppose a retail chain requires staff to be available to work on weekends, their busiest time. The hiring manager, Bob, interviews a candidate named Sarah. During the interview, Bob explains the job requirements. Sarah asks that she not be scheduled to work from Friday afternoon through Saturday evening due to her religion. 

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Allegheny County work discrimination lawyer disparate impact“Disparate impact” by race means that an employment policy has a greater negative impact on people of a particular race, even if the employer did not intend the policy to be discriminatory and even if the policy does not appear obviously discriminatory on its face. You can file a claim for financial compensation if you have been terminated from your job or otherwise suffered race-based employment discrimination as the result of a workplace policy with disparate impact. 

Requirements to Claim Racial Discrimination By Disparate Impact 

In order to make a valid disparate-impact claim against an employer, several conditions must be met. First, you must have personally suffered harm as a result of the policy, such as being fired because you violated the policy.

Second, according to current court rulings, the basis of racial discrimination must be an unchangeable condition of your race, such as skin color or a medical condition that has been scientifically linked to your race. “Cultural expressions” of your race such as hairstyles and styles of dress do not currently qualify as race-based discrimination, although this could change in the future, because religious expressions have already been granted legal protection.

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Allegheny County work discrimination attorneyRacial discrimination in the workplace does not have to involve open hostility, derogatory remarks, and intentional acts in order to support a claim for damages. In fact, many cases have been won where an employer’s race-based discrimination was subtle and even unintentional. 

When racial discrimination occurs in a more subtle fashion, you may not even be sure whether you have a valid claim. Even after you file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and their investigation reveals some evidence of discriminatory practices, there is no guarantee that the EEOC will decide to prosecute your case. In such cases, you may need to engage a private attorney to help you collect damages.

What Are Some Signs of Subtle Racial Discrimination?

A supervisor or hiring manager may never utter a word against people of another race or intentionally make discriminatory decisions about hiring, promotion, or termination. However, they may still be perpetuating discriminatory practices.

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Allegheny County workplace discrimination lawyer EEOC claimWhen you file a workplace discrimination claim with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), this organization will investigate your complaint to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to support your claim. If so, the EEOC will file charges against the employer and attempt to settle the case through its conciliation process. 

If the employer refuses to settle your case through conciliation, only then will the EEOC consider filing a federal court lawsuit against that employer. However, the EEOC is not required to pursue your case in court. In fact, the EEOC only pursues litigation in a small percentage of the cases where it finds sufficient evidence of discrimination and fails to resolve the case through conciliation. In making this determination, the EEOC considers factors such as the seriousness of the violation, the specific legal issues involved, and the extent to which a court ruling on the case would advance the agency’s wider efforts to reduce and prevent workplace discrimination. 

The Benefits of Engaging a Private Attorney for Your Pittsburgh Workplace Discrimination Case

You will find it valuable to consult a private attorney about your case even before you file a workplace discrimination complaint with the federal EEOC or the corresponding state agency, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC). 

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Allegheny County EEOC claim lawyer discrimination compensationIf you have experienced employment discrimination because of your age, race, sex, or another attribute protected under the U.S. Civil Rights Act, you have the right to file a claim with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). If the EEOC determines that your claim of discrimination is valid, you may be eligible to receive substantial compensation for the harm that was done to you. The amount of compensation that you can receive depends on the nature of your case.

Intentional Sex-Based Wage Discrimination

If your claim is that your employer paid you less than other people in comparable positions due to your gender, your compensation will be in the form of back pay. If you were paid $10/hour, and workers of the other gender were paid $11/hour, and you worked at that job for 1,000 hours, you would be eligible for compensation in the amount of $1,000 ($1 per hour wage difference times the number of hours that you were underpaid).

When an employer’s sex-based discrimination is not just intentional but especially malicious, your compensation as described above could be doubled. This type of incremental compensation is termed “liquidated damages.”

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Allegheny County workplace race discrimination lawyerYou may feel that you have been treated in a negative or unfair manner at work because of your race, yet be unsure whether it rises to the level of illegal racial discrimination. It can be difficult to determine whether a single employer decision that appears to be racially biased is actually a violation of your rights under the federal and/or Pennsylvania state civil rights laws. 

Some employer decisions about your work terms or duties may not appear to be discriminatory on their face, but can be proven to be discriminatory when all employee records are reviewed. Some examples include:

  • Offering different work terms or conditions to one race than to others
  • Assigning duties or responsibilities based on an employee's race
  • Limiting promotion opportunities to those of a particular race

If you are unsure whether you have been discriminated against with regard to work terms, conditions, or duties, two helpful resources are guidelines published by the federal Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) and EEOC press releases about recently settled cases.

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Pittsburgh EEOC race discrimination claim attorneyGiven that racial discrimination by employers is prohibited nationwide by the U.S. Civil Rights Act, you may wonder why Pennsylvania has passed a virtually identical law at the state level. You may also wonder how the federal and state agencies work together to investigate race discrimination complaints without duplicating each other’s efforts. 

Federal vs. Pennsylvania State Laws on Race Discrimination

Federal law. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race (and several other factors) by employers with 15 or more employees. This law established the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commision (EEOC), which is tasked with publishing regulations and guidelines to help employers understand and comply with the law, investigating and resolving discrimination complaints, and generally enforcing the law. 

Pennsylvania state law. The Pennsylvania Fair Employment Practice Act—since retitled to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA)—was originally enacted in 1955, nearly a decade before the federal Civil Rights Act. Like Title VII, the Pennsylvania law prohibits discrimination against employees on the basis of race (and several other factors). 

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Pittsburgh employer racial discrimination attorneyIf you take a careful look around your workplace, you may honestly be able to say that you see no evidence of racial discrimination. However, not everyone in Pennsylvania can say that. Employer race discrimination continues to be surprisingly common in the state. 

In fact, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) received 1,195 race-based employment discrimination charges from Pennsylvania in 2017, and it has received a roughly similar number each year since 2011. Pennsylvania ranked seventh among the 50 states in race-based complaints in 2017. Texas had the largest number of charges (2,999), followed by Florida, Georgia, California, Illinois, and North Carolina. It should also be noted, however, that the EEOC found that 75% of all U.S. race-based charges were unsupported by the evidence. 

To provide an idea of what types of racial discrimination charges are still being filed against employers in Pennsylvania, here are two recent cases that appeared in the news in 2018:

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Wexford, PA racial discrimination lawyerVirtually all U.S. employers, regardless of size, have an employee handbook that clearly states a company policy against racial discrimination and harassment. Employees are typically required to sign a form stating that they have read and agree to these policies. Companies hold harassment awareness training sessions. Job postings state that the company is an Equal Opportunity Employer whose employment decisions “shall be made without regard to race, creed, color, or any other basis protected by federal, state, or local law.” All of these measures are meant to ensure that the employer complies with Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, which specifically prohibits racial discrimination and applies to all employers with 15 or more employees.  

However, racial discrimination and harassment persist in some companies and some geographic areas. Sometimes it is subtle or hidden, making you unsure whether you are justified in filing a complaint against your employer.

How Do I Know If I Have a Valid Discrimination Complaint?

Racial discrimination in the workplace occurs when an employer treats workers of one race worse than those of another race. Some of the most common examples involve hiring, retention, or promotion actions that favor one race over another. Other examples include assigning certain job tasks disproportionately to people of one race or paying employees of one race less than other employees who do the same job.

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Pittsburgh workplace discrimination lawyersEvery citizen of the United States has the right to be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of age, skin color, ancestry, sexual orientation, or any other characteristics they may have. While no rule could possibly prevent every insult or instance of exclusion, there are laws in place to prevent discrimination in the workplace on the basis of certain personal characteristics. Sexual harassment—a form of sex-based employment discrimination—has been at the forefront of public consciousness for the last year or so, but other types of discrimination also occur every day throughout the country.

One of New York City’s best-known department stores is currently facing a lawsuit filed by eight former employees—all of whom are men and most of whom are older and black. The men say that Saks Fifth Avenue discriminated against them on the basis of age and race. They also claim that they were treated much differently than workers who were younger and white were treated.

A “Glass Ceiling”

The plaintiffs include four black men, two white men, and two Hispanic men. More than half of the men are over the age of 54. In their lawsuit, the men allege that black and Hispanic employees of Saks are restricted by a “glass ceiling” in place for people of color. They say that this was made evident in a variety of ways during the course of their employment. In general, the claimants allege that they were assigned to departments with low customer traffic so as to keep them “far removed from the department’s front entrance.” When the employees’ sales numbers lagged as a result, they were evaluated poorly. When they made sales goals anyway, the men said that managers found other ways to criticize their performance.

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Allegheny County sexual harassment lawyersThe office romance is the basis of numerous highly-successful TV shows and movies. For example, Leslie Knope nearly lost her position as city councilor after having a secret relationship with her boss on the hit show Parks and Recreation. Likewise, the show The Office centered largely around a relationship which forms between two co-workers. While things almost always work out for the best in TV relationships, the reality of office relationships is often much gloomier. Office romances can lead to accusations of sexual harassment and leave employees confused and uncomfortable.

The Close Quarters of Many Work Environments May Contribute to Office Romances

For many Americans, their job is their life’s passion. Many individuals spend upwards of 50-60 hours a week in close proximity to their co-workers. For many professionals, it can be difficult to spend a great deal of time with someone they enjoy and not develop romantic or sexual feelings for him or her. However, office romances can be risky. Sexual or romantic relationships between a boss and a subordinate are especially dangerous. A supervisor who has a relationship with a subordinate may be accused of quid pro quo sexual harassment. The subordinate may feel as those he or she has no choice but to consent to the relationship, even if this was not the intent of the supervisor. Situations like these can quickly develop into full-blown sexual harassment cases.

Check Your Employee Handbook for Information on Sexual Harassment Policies

Many businesses are now addressing their rules regarding office romances in print. If you are considering entering into a relationship with a co-worker, check to see what your employer’s policy is regarding these types of situations. Some businesses ask employees to disclose any office romances to human resources as a means of protecting both the company as well as the individuals in the relationship. Other businesses ban romantic office relationships outright.

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Pittsburgh sexual harassment lawyersEvery employee deserves to feel safe at work and to be paid fairly for their efforts.  Employees have certain rights, called workplace rights, which are guaranteed by law. Title VII of the the Civil Rights Act of 1964 made it officially illegal for businesses to discriminate on the basis of "race, color, religion, sex or national origin." The Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 reinforced workplace rights and added further protections for women and minorities. Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination protected against by both federal and state law. Unfortunately, sexual harassment in the workplace continues to be a problem in the United States.

Hostile Work Environment Harassment Creates a Threatening Work Atmosphere

According to the law, there are two types of sexual harassment. Hostile work environment and quid pro quo harassment. Hostile work environment harassment involves behaviors and remarks which create an abusive or hostile work environment. The law specifies that the offensive behavior or remarks have to be “severe and pervasive” enough to interfere with the affected employee’s ability to do his or her job. Isolated incidents or trivial offensive behaviors may not meet the legal definition of sexual harassment.

When Does Awkward Behavior Cross the Line into Harassment?

Actions which may be considered harassing behavior include but are not limited to:

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Pittsburgh sexual harassment attorneysNever has the nation’s attention been more focused on sexual misconduct than in the last few years. Many influential and famous men have been accused of sex crimes ranging from violent sexual assault to workplace sexual harassment.

While it is true that the vast majority of sex crime victims are women, it is imperative to note that men can also be the victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment. In fact, a recent survey showed that approximately one-third of working men have experienced sexual harassment in the prior year. Furthermore, a little over 16 percent of all complaints made to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), were filed by men in 2011. Data shows that this number is rising. Men may have a particularly difficult time when filing complaints about workplace sexual harassment for a variety of reasons. If you are a man who has been sexually harassed at work, keep the following things in mind.

You Deserve to Be Free from Harassment

Being sexually harassed at work can be devastating. No one should have to tolerate unwanted touching or sexually-charged comments or jokes made at their expense. Furthermore, no one should ever be forced to perform sexual favors in order to keep his or her job or gain workplace benefits. Unfortunately, sexual harassment like this continues to be a problem in offices and worksites across the country. If you are a man who has been sexually harassed, you have just as much legal right to representation as a woman does. Men and women can be both victims and perpetrators of sexual harassment.

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Allegheny County sexual harassment attorneysNever before has the subject of sexual harassment and sexual assault been more relevant. Advocates for better sexual harassment awareness and prevention say that unreported sexual misconduct has gone on long enough. Women and men in all types of professions can be burdened by unwanted sexual attention from co-workers, but studies show that individuals in certain professions are much more likely to experience sexual harassment or assault at work than others. Nursing, a profession dominated by women, is one of these professions.

Nurses Say Patient Harassment is Unavoidable

Most people would agree that being a nurse is a physically, emotionally, and psychologically-demanding job. Nurses not only have to tend to patients’ medical needs, but also their social and emotional needs. Unfortunately, the close proximity of nurses to their patients combined with the emotional connection nurses sometimes form with patients can cause patients to cross the line. Many patients in hospitals or doctor’s offices are elderly, disabled, or cognitively impaired. Some patients who make sexual advances towards nurses do so because they are suffering from conditions like deminita. Other patients may believe that their inappropriate behavior is harmless or simply not care that the sexual advances make their nurse uncomfortable.

Nurses interviewed for an NBC story explained that patients had exposed themselves to nursing staff or even groped nurses’ bodies. One nurse even explained that behavior like this is “par for the course” and that all nurses must learn to tolerate it. One poll published by Medscape Medical News found that an overwhelming majority – over seventy percent – of nurses had been harassed by a patient.

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Allegheny County sexual harassment lawyersToday, it is not unusual to see stories about sexual harassment or sexual misconduct on the front page of newspapers—or, perhaps more accurately, internet news feeds. This has not always been the case. For many years, sexual harassment was largely a taboo topic. Countless victims suffered in silence while the perpetrators and their employers were never held responsible for their actions.

While the modern-day discussion of sexual harassment was prompted, to a certain extent, by the allegations against film mogul Harvey Weinstein and resulting #MeToo movement, many historians suggest that specific allegations made almost 30 years ago were instrumental in creating awareness of sexual harassment for the first time in the United States.

Sex Talk on Television

In 1991, a former U.S. Department of Education staffer testified before the United States Senate Judiciary Committee regarding how she had been treated by her former boss. The woman’s name was Anita Hill, and her boss was a Supreme Court nominee and federal judge Clarence Thomas. Ms. Hill worked as attorney-adviser to Thomas when he was the Assistant Secretary of the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights beginning in 1981. Thomas was named chairman of the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in 1982, and Hill went with him as an assistant. She would leave that job in 1983.

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Pittsburgh sexual harassment attorneysWhile we know that television often glamorizes certain fantasies, one would be excused for believing in the idea of finding love in the workplace. Take the hit sitcom The Office, for example. Who wouldn’t want to find the Pam to their Jim or vice versa?

Of course, dating in the workplace has become much more complicated in recent years, especially in light of the #MeToo movement. More complicated, however, does not mean totally off limits. Even in 2018, it may be possible to ask a co-worker out on a date, but it is important to do so with great care and respect for your co-worker as a person.

Know the Rules

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Pittsburgh sexual harassment lawyersSexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination protected against by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Employers may not treat employees or potential employees differently than others just because of their gender. Unfortunately, sexual harassment at work does occur, and studies show women in higher education may be especially susceptible to it. Whether it is a supervisor suggesting that an employee may get a promotion if she performs sexual favors or a co-worker that makes nonstop inappropriate jokes, no one should have to put up with sexual harassment.

University and College Faculty Report Widespread Sexual Harassment Against Women

Researchers from the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine hope that their investigation into sexual harassment trends in academia will lead to methods of preventing sexual harassment completely. Using data from surveys and other studies, the researchers found that sexual harassment is shockingly common in higher education. In fact, almost 60 percent of female college faculty say that they have been victims of sexual harassment themselves.

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Pittsburgh sexual harassment attorneyReporting a co-worker or supervisor for sexual harassment can be an intimidating endeavor. This is one reason that thousands of incidents of sexual harassment sadly go unreported and unaddressed. Many victims of sexual harassment worry that speaking out against inappropriate sexual harassment in the workplace will get them fired or ostracized at work. Unfortunately, employers do sometimes “punish” employees who make sexual harassment allegations, but the good news is that there are laws to protect victims in this circumstance.

The Responsibility of Employers to Their Employees

Anyone who owns a business or otherwise employs other people has several duties to their employees. One of these duties is to address and investigate any claims of sexual harassment made my subordinates. If a company receives a report of sexual harassment claim and does not take steps to stop the harassing behavior, they can be held liable. If you were sexually harassed at work and your claim of sexual harassment was swept under the rug, your employer could face serious consequences. They may be required to reimburse you for lost wages and even the costs related to your new job search.

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