The HR Specialist: New York Employment Law

Some employers assume that for a hostile environment claim to have merit, the victim must practically have a nervous breakdown. Not so. A strong-willed employee may be able to tolerate a barrage of abuse in good spirits, but may still have a hostile work environment claim.

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A Bronx jury has ordered Bernard Spitzer, father of former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, to pay more than $1.3 million to four former employees to settle racial discrimination charges.

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Sometimes, employees suggest telecommuting as an accommodation if they have temporary disabilities. Telecommuting may be possible for some kinds of jobs. But in other cases, the job itself may make telecommuting impossible.

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Sometimes, employees with disabilities don’t choose to let their employers know. If such an employee needs an accommodation such as a transfer to a less stressful position, she may make the request but never explain why. Then, when she is turned down, she may sue and allege she said she needed the transfer because of her disability.

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You don’t always have to promote the best educated or most experienced employee—but you must at least have a good explanation why you chose another candidate.

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Margaret Tarulli, a special officer for New York City’s Human Resources Administration, has filed a sexual assault and harassment lawsuit against her former supervisor.

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Sometimes, employees of one company may end up temporarily doing work for another company. If they are injured during the course of that work, who picks up the tab? Generally, the employer that carries the employee on the payroll and that controls the way the work is done.

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Employees can file class-action lawsuits on behalf of all similarly situated employees to recover unpaid overtime and other unpaid wages—if they are willing to give up their statutory rights to penalties and liquidated damages under New York State labor laws.

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The City of New York has agreed to pay $25,000 to William Hallowell, a former library assistant at Riverdale Country School in the Bronx, for arresting him following an e-mail mix-up at work.

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Is your employee handbook clear on exactly what constitutes maternity leave and how long it lasts? If you plan to permit just the 12 weeks allowed for pregnancy and childbirth under the FMLA, spell that out. Don’t refer to maternity leave separately and then provide a different week or month count …

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