Where’s the Brotherly Love, Philly? Employment Discrimination & Civil Rights Suits Making Headlines

philadelphia-skylineThe City of Philadelphia seems to have had more than its fair share of civil rights lawsuits in the last several weeks. The EEOC has had a number of significant successes against employers in Philadelphia and the surrounding areas.


The month of May started on a difficult note for the city. First, there was the backlash when 15 city officers were videotaped beating a suspect just days after a fellow officer was killed in the line of duty.  4 of the officers were later fired for their involvement.

Moore v. City of Philadelphia

Then came the $10m jury verdict in favor of three former Philadelphia police officers.  The officers alleged that they were subject to unlawful retaliation when they opposed racial discrimination and harassment of African-American police officers in their squad.

Lawrence vs. City of Philadelphia

Then, on May 29, 2008, The Third Circuit reversed and remanded a class action case brought by more than 250 “fire-service paramedics.”  The plaintiffs allege that the city’s fire department unlawfully withheld overtime pay by misclassifying them as exempt employees under the “fire-service exemption.”  A case of indebtedness at the trial court level of the Appellate Court reversed finding that the exemption did not apply.  This narrow reading of FLSA exemption could have broad implications for the City of Brotherly Love.

EEOC vs. NutriSystem Inc.

Not to be outdone by its urban neighbor, Horsham, Pa. has had its own bit of discrimination news.  On May 21, 2008, the EEOC announced that NutriSystem, Inc., had agreed to settle a lawsuit filed by the Commission on behalf of the woman it allegedly fired because she was pregnant.  The pregnancy discrimination settlement cost NutriSystem $82,500.  The employee with initially hired as the temporary recruiter in the company’s human resources department and would need a fulltime employee a year later.  One month after she was placed in a leadership training program and three weeks after she announced that she was pregnant, the employee was fired.

NutriSystem, again

The Horsham company saw more problems last week when a former employee and Philadelphia resident filed suit in Federal Court in a class action suit estimated to include that least 400 current and former employees.  The lawsuit alleges that the company violated The Fair Labor Standards Act by underpaying their call center employees.  The company responded that the employees had been properly classified as exempt.

Of course, the first case in this string of settlements was in early May, when Conectiv agree to pay $1.65m to Black workers after the EEOC filed suit against the energy company and its subcontractors for race discrimination.  (See my earlier post, Delaware-based Conectiv Settles Race Discrimination Suit with Philadelphia EEOC for $1.65m.)