The HR Specialist: New Jersey Employment Law

Here’s an important reminder for HR professionals handling em­­ployee discipline: If the disciplinary process is well under way—and you believe that the proposed discipline is fair, reasonable and based on facts—there’s no need to stop the process just because the employee files an internal discrimination complaint.

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Managers may think it’s safe to underpay employees by having them work off the clock or shaving time off their overtime tab because no one has complained. But it takes just one short-term employee to get the lawsuit ball rolling. Before you know it, you will be facing an FLSA and New Jersey Wage and Hour Law class-action suit.

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The owner of a coffee shop next door to Camden’s City Hall has flat-out refused to pay a $75,000 settlement intended to resolve six sexual harassment complaints filed by women who once worked there. City Coffee owner Robert Ford says he never signed a settlement agreement—and doesn’t plan to.

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A Morris County jury has awarded $1.38 million to former Warren Township prosecutor Michelle D’Onofrio, who was fired in 2007 after accusing a local judge of misconduct.

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It’s certainly possible to terminate an employee who returns from FMLA leave—if you have good reasons un­­related to the FMLA.

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Employees who fear they’re facing disciplinary action may quit. Then they argue that they would have been fired and quit preemptively, so they’re eligible for unemployment compensation. But if the employer can show there really was no good reason for the employee to think her job was in danger, then the employee can’t receive unemployment.

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In HR, sometimes one just has to wait while disputes run their course—like when a terminated employee sues over claims that clearly have no basis in reality. You can’t ignore such a lawsuit, but you should push your attorney right away to resolve the situation.

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Employees with excellent performance records often head straight to HR the first time they face disciplinary action. And you’re right to worry enough to take a careful look at whether the proposed discipline is warranted. It’s possible that a boss’s prejudice may have motivated the discipline.

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Employees who have lost their jobs have very little to lose and everything to gain by suing their former employers. Your best defense when firing: Al­­ways carefully document a performance-related reason for the termination. That will trump all but the most egregious cases of supervisory expressions of bigotry.

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OSHA has cited A-Absolute Construction, based in Roselle, for numerous violations at a Parsippany worksite. OSHA has had its eye on A-Absolute since 2008 when a trench collapse trapped a worker.

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