The HR Specialist: New York Employment Law

The state legislature is considering a bill that would require all employers to provide up to 12 weeks of paid time off so employees can tend to very ill family members or take care of newborns or newly adopted children.

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The parent corporation of several New York City area car washes has agreed to settle overtime claims from 1,187 current and former employees for $3.4 million. Coupled with a previous settlement with 200 workers for more than $1.3 million, Lage Management has paid out more than $4.7 million in back pay and liquidated damages.

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An arbitrator has awarded $1.2 million in back pay and damages to 19 former employees of Wurld Media, Inc. The Saratoga Springs-based Internet startup, which marketed a product similar to iTunes, began having trouble making payroll in 2006.

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Recently, courts have begun to fine pro se litigants who file lawsuits that have no chance of success. That should discourage some former employees from suing without the help of an attorney.

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Congress will be taking a fresh look at the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) this fall, now that a Capitol Hill compromise has stripped out the bill’s controversial “card check” provision, which would have required union certification with a majority of employee signatures.

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Before you decide to throw out old evaluations and files, consider this: An employee may sue and refer back to those evaluations from memory. If she remembers nothing but positive performance reviews until a recent poor appraisal (engineered, she believes, to get her fired), you’ll need to be able to show her employment history wasn’t as rosy as she remembers.

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Occasionally, employees (and their lawyers) get more creative than usual when it comes to claiming how they suffered discrimination. Take the following case in which an employee claimed he was being harassed because some co-workers believed all people of his nationality are gay.

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Courts give employers the benefit of a doubt when it comes to the qualifications they seek in job candidates, and the questions they ask during interviews. As long as the criteria and questions are job-related and not otherwise illegal, courts grant wide latitude. But once you decide on hiring criteria and use them to rank candidates, resist the temptation to go back and tinker with the rankings.

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When Gov. David Paterson was Senate minority leader in 2003, he fired a white photographer and replaced him with a less qualified black one. Now the state has agreed to settle the original photographer’s lawsuit for $300,000 while admitting no wrongdoing.

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Here’s a way to guarantee a race discrimination case will go to a jury trial: Let a supervisor with an obvious racial bias participate in the decision to terminate an employee who belongs to the protected class the supervisor dislikes. Even if you have a seemingly legitimate reason to terminate the employee, the supervisor’s involvement will taint the entire process.

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