The HR Specialist: Illinois Employment Law

Make this a mantra in your organization: The same person who hired an employee should be the one to fire him if necessary. Here’s why:

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Employees don’t have forever to sue for wrongful termination—and the clock may start ticking even before their last day on the job. That can mean all the difference in court.

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Employers that don’t have a squeaky-clean, sex- and innuendo-free workplace may end up spending big bucks defending against sexual harassment charges. That means you need an aggressive program that bans all forms of sexual behavior and banter at work.

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In a significant legal victory, the EEOC has persuaded a federal court to limit what employers can in­­clude in so-called last-chance agreements. The court concluded that the EEOC was right when it argued that agreements threatening retaliation are illegal …

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Some employees seem to believe that every medical problem is a disability that requires accommodation. That’s not true. Employees aren’t disabled unless their condition substantially limits a major life function. If the only effect is an inability to perform a specific job—not a class of jobs—the employee isn’t disabled and doesn’t have to be accommodated.

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Don’t make a common, but potentially expensive mistake. You can terminate an employee who isn’t ready to return to work when he has used up his FMLA leave without violating the FMLA. However, you may be violating the ADA by doing so.

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Now there’s a price tag on an ADA case that has been percolating through Illinois courts for years. The Auto­­Zone chain of car-parts stores must pay $415,000 to a former manager who balked at doing custodial chores because of a debilitating neck injury.

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A boss’s secret preju­dice won’t support an employee’s sex-bias lawsuit if the employer provides equal opportunities to both men and women. That’s true even if the sexist boss reacts outrageously when the subordinate quits.

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If you must cut staff, you naturally want to terminate the least productive workers and keep the most productive ones. You could make the decision on the basis of past performance evaluations. But what if there aren’t any?

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HR can and should serve as a check on overzealous supervisors who want to mete out discipline to those they don’t like while ignoring problems with those they favor. Insist that no final termination or disciplinary actions go through without clear documentation that supervisors followed all the rules.

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