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The HR Specialist: New Jersey Employment Law

Are you sure your company is doing everything it can to prevent lawsuits? Start by looking at how you react to discrimination complaints. If you know exactly what to do from the moment an employee first complains until he or she files a federal lawsuit, there’s no need to read further. But if you hesitated for even a moment, keep reading.

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Retail managers are generally responsible for everything that happens in their stores. But they often spend most of their time doing the same work that hourly employees do. Even so, they may qualify as exempt employees under the FLSA. It’s the quality of the management work they do that counts, not the number of hours they spend doing it.

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The owner of a McDonald’s franchise in Perth Amboy will pay $50,000 to settle an EEOC harassment lawsuit filed on behalf of a male teenager who once worked at the restaurant. The boy complained that an assistant store manager made lewd comments and inappropriately touched, hugged and even spanked him.

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New Jersey’s Conscientious Employee Protection Act protects employees who blow the whistle on wrongdoing. That can include reporting conduct that the employee reasonably believes violates “a law, rule or regulation … or a clear mandate of public policy.” The employee doesn’t have to get very specific, especially claiming he blew the whistle on conduct that violates public policy.

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State Sen. Shirley Turner has proposed a bill that would prevent employers from using credit checks during the hiring process in many cases. Citing the downturn in the economy, Turner and other bill supporters note that many people have less than perfect credit, and that shouldn’t keep them from getting jobs.

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Remind supervisors: They can’t be careless about documenting poor performance, tardiness and other indications that an employee isn’t performing as well as expected. Good records provide the basis for valid discipline.

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It may soon be illegal for New Jersey employers to discriminate against applicants because they are unemployed. The State Assembly in October passed legislation prohibiting employers and recruiters from placing anything in job ads that would discourage unemployed persons from applying.

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Remember this the next time you have to terminate an employee: If you plan to prepare a post-discharge summary, don’t succumb to the temptation to add new reasons to justify the firing. Post-discharge memos should simply describe the decision and how you carried it out, not look like an attempt to justify a decision made earlier.

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Courts are losing patience with employees who think they can sue their employers years after alleged discrimination or harassment.

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The EEOC has sued the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, alleging it pays male lawyers much more than women who perform the same work. On behalf of three plaintiffs, the EEOC seeks class certification for all female attorneys affected by the allegedly discriminatory pay policies.

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