The HR Specialist: New York Employment Law

Employees have to work at least 1,250 hours in a year to qualify for FMLA leave. They also must have been employed for a total of one year. Thus, while many part-time employees may qualify for FMLA leave, others won’t because they haven’t met those thresholds. But now some hourly employees and their attorneys are trying a new approach.

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Elmer Davis Roofing, the largest roofing contractor in New York state, will pay $1 million to settle an EEOC race bias lawsuit, following what the commission called “decades of ugly and unlawful discrimination against African-American employees.”

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New York City law requires employers to consider whether injured or ill employees who want to work from home are entitled to such an accommodation.

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Until recently, Jim Callaghan was a writer for the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), the union that represents New York City teachers and that has made its name by actively opposing city officials’ power to fire teachers without due process. Now Callaghan is claiming UFT employees have no such protection themselves. He says he was fired after he began looking into unionizing UFT editorial employees.

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The Federal Jury Act makes it clear that employers may not “discharge, threaten to discharge, intimidate, or coerce any permanent employee by reason of such employee’s jury service, or the attendance or scheduled attendance in connection with such service, in any court of the United States.” Two recent cases show that courts won’t turn a blind eye to employers that fire workers because of jury service.

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The U.S. Department of Labor has announced it plans to study how employees use leave under the FMLA, a move that may signal that more regulatory changes are on the way.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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