The HR Specialist: New York Employment Law — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Page 82
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The HR Specialist: New York Employment Law

An American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit filed on behalf of a worker fired by the New York Department of Labor for falsifying time sheets may test the limits of employer surveillance of employees.

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No federal law says it’s discriminatory to refuse to hire unemployed people. However, legislatures in several states are considering bills that would make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of current employment status. Moreover, many who are jobless fall into protected classes—including women, minorities, people with disabilities and those over age 40.

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In late 2010 the EEOC produced regulations on the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). The regulations provide employers with specific guidance concerning what information they may gather about their employees, how GINA interacts with the FMLA medical certification process and how any genetic information the employer obtains is to be treated.

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Employees who claim they have been forced to work in a hostile work environment often lose their lawsuits because courts are reluctant to guarantee a civil workplace. But employers can’t accept horseplay, yelling, screaming and other unpleasant behavior at work. Here’s why:

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Utica-based Legal Aid Society of Mid-New York and the New York City Human Rights Commission are two of 13 recipients of U.S. Department of Justice grant funds meant to aid victims of immigration discrimination.

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As job duties change, evolve or grow, make sure you regularly review employee responsibilities, update job descriptions to reflect the reality on the ground and determine if the job is properly classified as exempt or nonexempt. Don’t rely on an analysis that’s even a couple of years old—or even an analysis provided by the DOL itself.

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More and more employees and applicants are filing their own lawsuits and acting as their own attorneys. Traditionally, courts allow these pro se litigants a great deal of latitude simply because they don’t have legal experience. If the following case is any indication, courts are getting tired of the additional drag on their dockets and have begun dismissing lawsuits when it becomes clear a pro se litigant has no case.

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In many states, including New York, employees have 180 days following an allegedly discriminatory act to file charges with either a state or local discrimination agency. They have 300 days from the allegedly discriminatory act to file with the federal EEOC. But what if the employee files her state claim too late?

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Having complete records of why you disciplined an employee often gives a court the information it needs to decide whether you’ve discriminated—or even retaliated against someone who has leveled serious charges against you.

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When it comes to recommending former employees, the simpler the better. Stick with the basics like dates of employment and job titles and you’ll rarely have trouble in court.

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