The HR Specialist: New York Employment Law

Of course you have an anti-­discrimination and anti-harassment policy. You make sure employees know about it. You even make it easy for employees to use the policy. But all that can be for naught if you’re unable to track those complaints.

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Here’s a tip that could save you thousands in legal bills and penalties: When you are asked to terminate a poor performer who previously complained about harassment, make sure her performance problems didn’t suddenly emerge after the complaint. That could be a clear indication of retaliation.

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Companies that don’t change with the times risk going out of business. But change can be uncomfortable for employees, especially if it affects them directly in lost pay, status or even continued employment. Don’t let the possibility of a lawsuit keep you from making necessary adjustments.

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The state minimum wage for most jobs will rise to $8.00 per hour effec­­tive Dec. 31, 2013, after the Leg­­is­­la­­ture approved Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s pro­­posal in late March. The minimum wage will increase twice more: to $8.75 on Dec. 31, 2014, and to $9.00 on Dec. 31, 2015.

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The Southern and Eastern Federal Districts of New York are among the top five districts nationwide for FLSA lawsuits.

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The Genetic Information Non­­dis­­crimi­­na­­tion Act, enacted in 2008, prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of their genetic information. The EEOC has filed its first two GINA class actions against employers that allegedly collected and used genetic information in hiring and firing decisions.

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Courts want to leave employers in charge of running their organizations. They won’t second-guess the rules you set, as long as they don’t appear illegal or discriminatory—even petty or quirky rules.

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The owners of a Nassau County ­diner face up to four years in prison after a joint federal/state investigation found massive payroll and tax fraud at the restaurant. They pleaded guilty to several felony and misdemeanor counts alleging wage-and-hour violations and shady bookkeeping.

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While workplace romances can cause all kinds of problems, it isn’t necessarily illegal discrimination if a supervisor favors his girlfriend. That’s true even if others feel they are being passed over or otherwise treated poorly because of the affair.

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You have no doubt heard that em­ployees who break the same rule should receive the same punishment. That’s true in most circumstances. However, nothing prevents employers from treating similarly situated employees differently if the facts warrant it. In those cases, however, details matter.

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