The HR Specialist: New York Employment Law

If an employer can present a coherent and rational explanation for why economics—not retaliation—drove a RIF decision, chances are a court won’t second-guess it.

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A federal jury has awarded $1.35 million to a police lieutenant in the Long Island town of Freeport after finding that the town’s black mayor turned him down for a promotion to chief of police because he is white. A Hispanic fire department official got the job.

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A black man who runs two Tiffany & Co. stores in Texas is suing the luxury retailer in New York, alleging that the company engages in “systemic, nationwide pattern and practice of racial discrimination.”

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These days, few attorneys accept cases they know they can’t win. That means more employees are acting as their own lawyers. Don’t make a classic employer mistake: Ignoring a pro se lawsuit in which the employee represents himself. Instead, practice patience and diligence in pushing for the court to dismiss the case.

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When you fire a difficult em­­ployee, there’s a good chance he or she will remain a thorn in your side. Always aim to document the incident that prompted the firing by gathering as many eyewitness accounts as possible.

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If a disabled employee is about to get the ax for reasons that have nothing to do with her condition, don’t make any comments about her health. Otherwise, it could look like you really fired her because she is disabled—and it could become the basis for a disability discrimination lawsuit.

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A new contract grants unionized em­­ployees of New York City’s Metropolitan Transit Authority retroactive 1% raises for each of the past two years, which means most will receive one-time payments between $3,000 and $5,000.

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When it comes ADA disability discrimination claims, employers have to think about litigation as soon as an employee self-identifies as disabled and brings up potential reasonable accommodations. If a supervisor or HR professional refuses to even consider accommodations, it all but guarantees that the case won’t be dismissed at the summary judgment stage, potentially leading to a jury trial.

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Setting up several different corporations to run related enterprises won’t insulate the businesses from liability for wage-and-hour claims if the interrelationship is close.

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Before accommodating certain dress practices, employers can ask for some kind of proof of the religious custom that demands an exception—usually a letter from the employee explaining the practice and stating that he or she adheres to it. Once that letter is on file, however, employers should be careful about again demanding that the employee explain the practice or produce evidence of its validity.

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