The HR Specialist: New York Employment Law

J.C. Penney has agreed to settle a racial discrimination suit filed by Reinell Singh, an African-American employee at a Staten Island store. Singh alleged her supervisor used racially offensive names when referring to her and ultimately fired her because of her race.

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It’s crucial to handle all job openings the same. If someone doesn’t properly apply for a job, he can’t sue you for discrimination. If you have a clear process—and he knows about it—you can readily show he didn’t apply.

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Sometimes, employers conducting harassment investigations find themselves in no-win situations, especially when there are conflicting claims and classic “he said, she said” scenarios. You risk a lawsuit if you fire the alleged harasser, most likely alleging some other illegal reason for your decision to terminate. The way to win these cases: Thoroughly document the investigation.

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Sometimes, a union contract clashes with employment laws. It’s then up to an arbitrator to reconcile the two—and an arbitrator’s decision is rarely overturned on appeal.

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New York Knicks center Eddy Curry has been sued by his former driver, who claims that Curry made a pass at him. The former driver, David Kuchinsky, also says that Curry used racial slurs around him …

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A former secretary who worked for the New York City Department of Aging has settled her sexual harassment lawsuit against the city for $225,000. Auritela Santos claimed the department commissioner, who has since resigned, subjected her to sexual remarks …

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The ADA requires employers to reasonably accommodate disabled employees and applicants. To decide what those accommodations will be, both sides are supposed to engage in an interactive process. If that process breaks down, a court will try to determine who was responsible for the impasse—and good records are key to winning that fight.

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If you want to give an employee one last chance to fly right, you can use a so-called “last chance agreement.” Such contracts can be used, for example, to set the terms for being drug or alcohol free and submitting to random testing. Last-chance agreements can even include tough terms

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Good news when it comes to disciplining disabled employees for breaking behavioral or dress code rules: You can and should hold the disabled to those rules, along with everyone else.

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If you haven’t already taken appropriate measures to comply with New York’s new privacy law that took effect in January, do so now before the Commissioner of Labor moves to assess civil penalties. Amendments to the New York Labor Law now require employers to protect employees from identity theft and other potential privacy problems.

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