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The HR Specialist: New York Employment Law

No doubt, you’ve read about the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) efforts to enforce the nation’s immigration laws by cracking down on employers that hire and employ illegal immigrants. So you might be surprised to learn that a New York state court has ruled that even an illegal immigrant who admits he forged his I-9 documentation and was fired can sue for state wage-law violations …

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Peter Giaccio Jr., a boilermaker for New York City’s Department of Transportation (DOT), sued the department for leaking the results of a random drug test that revealed marijuana use. Giaccio, being in a “safety-sensitive” position, was subject to random testing, which he failed twice …

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Over the years, the RiverBay Corporation disciplined Co-op City porter Paulino Valenzuela for drinking beer on the job, cursing and threatening to kill his supervisor, Audley Bent. Finally the company, which manages the Bronx housing complex, fired him. On Aug. 30, Valenzuela made good on his threats …

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Mark Pasternak, of Buffalo, a former youth aide for the Office of Child and Family Services, won a $150,000 verdict for discrimination he suffered nearly a decade ago. Pasternak said, “They called it reverse racism, but for me, I thought all along it was just plain racism” …

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Developing, implementing and enforcing a comprehensive anti-harassment policy is vital to create a safe and comfortable work environment and minimize the potential damage from harassment lawsuits. But having an anti-harassment policy is not enough; the policy must be implemented, promulgated and consistently enforced. Training employees and managers on harassment law and the employer’s harassment policy is an important part of an employer’s defense against a harassment claim—whether the alleged harassment was by a supervisor or a co-worker …

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Jose Gomez was working on the demolition crew at a building in Flushing, jackhammering a concrete slab, when the work site collapsed. The resulting fall left Gomez a paraplegic. He filed suit for lost wages. That’s when his employers officially noted Gomez was in the country illegally and was not entitled to such benefits …

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It took nearly a year, but the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has finally forced Manhattan retailer Albert Palacci to pay for blatantly exploiting three immigrant women …

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An August amendment to the New York Labor Law guarantees time and space for breast-feeding mothers to express milk at work, but stops short of emancipating them from the lowly toilet stall …

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The good news: Recent court rulings say you generally don’t have to pay for the time employees spend preparing for their workday, such as waiting in security lines or putting on generic headgear and work boots. The bad news: These kinds of cases continue to find their way into court, and the issue seems far from settled. Keep your lawyer’s phone number handy.

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When it comes to discrimination, your best defense is treating everyone absolutely equally. And that’s tough to do without a central HR tracking system. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Make sure you note any problems (and praise) in each employee’s official file. Then, do regular audits—pulling out data on age, sex, national origin and race—to tabulate the types of problems and any discipline levied …

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