The HR Specialist: New York Employment Law

A recent report offers some ominous news for New York employers. New York is one of eight states that saw an increase in class-action wage-and-hour cases filed in state court last year, according to the Seyfarth Shaw law firm’s new Workplace Class Action Litigation Report.

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The state Labor Department wants you to know there is an alternative to cutting staff during the downturn. Employers that reduce work hours for full-time employees instead of laying them off may qualify for the Shared Work Program.

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There’s no sure way to protect your organization from a rogue supervisor who sexually harasses a subordinate. However, you can reduce your liability with a strong, proactive stand against any supervisor/subordinate personal relationships.

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Nine companies headquartered in New York have made Fortune magazine’s 2009  “100 Best Companies to Work For” list. Seven of the firms are based in New York City. Two Rochester companies also made the cut.

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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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