It’s a misconception that anytime a supervisor has a romantic relationship with an employee, other employees can sue for sex discrimination. If that were the case, employers could be held liable for any number of legitimate (or unsavory) relationships between employees or even with outsiders.
While Congress ponders the Employee Misclassification Prevention Act, several states are studying ways to target employers that misclassify their employees as independent contractors. New York is part of a joint task force studying the misclassification problem.
Courts don’t like to meddle in hiring decisions unless they see something obviously wrong with the hiring process. The key is to treat all qualified applicants alike—and then document that you did so. For example, hiring managers should ask the same questions of everyone they interview and use the same scale to rate each applicant.
Abusive managers may be workplace monsters, but their behavior generally hasn’t subjected employers to liability if no particular protected class was the target of the abuse. That may be about to change in New York.
You no doubt take sexual harassment complaints seriously and promptly try to learn the facts. But which facts should you consider when deciding whether the conduct creates a hostile work environment? Look at the totality of the circumstances. For example, comments that aren’t directly sexual can still contribute to a hostile environment if the context indicates that the comments are related to others that are sexual.
Here’s good news for supervisors who are afraid of making the wrong disciplinary decision: Employers don’t have to be right every time about the underlying reasons for disciplinary action. Instead, what counts is acting in good faith.
Some employees are difficult, always skating on thin ice. They’re disruptive, don’t listen to directions and pretty much do whatever they want. Even so, employers often hesitate to fire such troublemakers if they’ve recently requested FMLA leave or claimed to be disabled. Don’t be manipulated into keeping those bad apples.
Before you decide to videotape someone whom you suspect may be abusing FMLA leave, make sure you have a good-faith reason to do so. And be prepared to show that surveillance is a common practice for similar suspicions.
In a victory for employers, the New York Court of Appeals has limited the reach of both the New York state and New York City human rights laws. The issue arose when Manhattan-based Parade magazine terminated Howard Hoffman, who claimed he was fired because of his age.
Managers may be reluctant to report potential employee theft to the police, assuming that if they are wrong, they could be sued. But chances are that, if an employer acts in good faith, it won’t be liable—even if it turns out the employee is innocent.