The HR Specialist: New York Employment Law

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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Employees who have been injured may try to return to positions for which they are no longer qualified because they still suffer limitations on the work they can do. Employers are free to deny reinstatement if the employees’ new limitations mean they can’t perform the essential functions of their jobs, even with accommodations.

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The main reason to settle a case is to make the whole thing go away. But when you settle with a former employee, consider the possibility that she may apply for open positions in the future. If you want to avoid a second round of litigation, consider including a “no rehire” clause in the settlement agreement.

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Some employees have minor medical conditions they claim make it impossible to perform some aspect of their jobs. They want accommodations, assuming they will meet the ADA disability definition. If you want to challenge such a disability claim, check to see whether the employee is working elsewhere.

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Clear Channel Radio will allow job-seekers 30 seconds of free air time to broadcast their résumés. Each week, Clear Channel stations across the country will choose five unemployed people to broadcast their qualifications…

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Employers are rightly sensitive about the effects of any kind of sexually explicit talk at work. That’s because some employees are looking for anything to sue over. But now the 2nd Circuit, which has jurisdiction over New York, has handed down a ruling sharply limiting frivolous cases that could have set unrealistic employer obligations.

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New York finished better than just four states in the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council’s (SBEC) Business Tax Index for 2009. The SBEC annually assesses the tax climates for business and entrepreneurs in the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

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