The HR Specialist: New York Employment Law

Clever lawyers are always looking for ways to reach deeper into employer pockets. One tactic has been to add state negligence claims to run-of-the-mill discrimination cases. That won’t work anymore, at least as far as negligent hiring, supervision and retention claims are concerned.

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If there’s one reason for firing an employee that’s likely to stand up in court, it’s insubordination. Employers that carefully document an employee’s refusal to follow directions or listen to a supervisor’s reasonable instructions or rules are likely to win a lawsuit.

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Some litigants don’t want to listen to their attorneys when it comes to case management. That can make it difficult to settle a case or even cooperate with the other side. And things can get worse if the employee fires counsel and wants the equivalent of a do-over. Fortunately, most judges won’t let that happen.

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Upscale retailer Barneys New York has agreed to pay $525,000 in fines to settle a lawsuit alleging it began profiling black and Hispanic customers after experiencing a spike in shoplifting and credit card fraud at its flagship store in Manhattan.

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A former employee has tried to advance a new legal theory by suing over alleged workplace bullying. His efforts failed and employers won’t have to worry about another new lawsuit flood.

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Here’s a warning for supervisors and managers. When transferring an employee to another position, make sure you don’t make promises that create an employment contract. Such promises, under New York state contract law, don’t necessarily have to be in writing. Fortunately, they do have to be specific.

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Here’s another reminder to employers to exercise caution in imposing discipline for conduct on social media.

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Unpaid interns for the website Gawker.com have won a round in court in their attempt to bring a class-action suit under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

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On July 22, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill that amends the New York Human Rights Law by adding a new Section 296-c titled, “Unlawful discriminatory practices relating to interns.”

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It’s crucial to keep good records of the hiring process, including tracking applicant experience levels. After all, you never know which applicant will sue, alleging that he was passed over for a discriminatory reason.

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