The HR Specialist: New York Employment Law

Gov. David Paterson has signed into law legislation protecting domestic workers, granting bereavement and funeral leave rights to same-sex partners and ensuring fair play in the construction industry.

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When Congress passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, it sought to guarantee women who had been denied equal pay in the past fresh opportunities to challenge their lower pay with each paycheck issued. Now a woman alleging sexual harassment and retaliation has tried to use that act to revive old claims relating to promotions. Her bid to expand the law in court failed.

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Employees who complain about alleged discrimination or harassment that violates Title VII or other anti-discrimination laws are protected from retaliation for reporting their allegations. But that doesn’t automatically mean every complaint about workplace problems is protected. If the complaint doesn’t touch on clearly identifiable workplace rights, it’s just a complaint.

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You can’t just shrug off co-worker conflicts. Instead, carefully document the problem just in case an employee sues. You’ll be able to show that personality, not discrimination, is the reason for an employee’s problems.

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Century-old, New York City-based building maintenance giant ABM has reached an agreement with the EEOC to settle sexual harassment charges stemming from its operations in California’s Central Valley. The alleged harassment included unwanted touching, men exposing themselves to female employees and rape.

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Employers are responsible when their employees suffer injuries at work. But what about injuries that happen before the employee clocks in? A federal court has ruled under some circumstances, the employee isn’t eligible for disability benefits.

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Only on Wall Street can you make $800,000 a year and claim that you’re underpaid. But three women who used to earn big bucks at Goldman Sachs are suing because they could have earned even more if they were men.

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The new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act significantly changes the health care landscape for many employers. Some aspects of the law took effect in September 2010. Most significantly, employees’ children are eligible for coverage until age 26. The new coverage requirement affects all plans renewing on or after Sept. 23, 2010.

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Employees who have just lost their jobs usually leave their termination meetings in a foul mood. So, don’t give them any reason during that meeting to send them marching to a lawyer’s office. As you’ll see in the following case, one inflammatory phrase from a supervisor can spark a lawsuit.

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Novartis Pharmaceuticals has agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit filed by female sales reps just two months after a federal jury awarded the plaintiffs $250 million in punitive damages. Novartis challenged that verdict, and the court had scheduled a hearing for November. Under the settlement, Novartis will pay $152.5 million in return for dropping its appeal.

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