The HR Specialist: New York Employment Law

Training opportunities at work must be available to all employees regardless of race, ethnicity, religion and so forth. That doesn’t mean, however, that everyone who wants to take a particular training course must get the opportunity. Employers can base training opportunities on the critical need for some employees to get the training.

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Some employees believe the Pregnancy Discrimination Act makes it illegal to discharge a pregnant woman for any reason related to the pregnancy. That’s not quite true. The PDA merely requires employers to treat pregnant women no differently than other employees. That may mean discharge for complications associated with pregnancy—under the right circumstances.

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As you try to cut costs in a tough economy, it may be tempting to outsource some HR functions to an independent contractor instead of continuing to do them in-house. Before you make that move, consider this: Employers may be liable for discrimination practiced by the outsourced independent contractor.

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Public employees who speak out on matters of public concern are protected from retaliation because their speech is protected by the First Amendment. For some time, courts have held that, if the employee’s motive was not informing the public, but instead securing some other workplace advantage, the speech was not protected. But now the 2nd Circuit has concluded that isn’t the law.

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Employees often don’t think about suing until after they have quit their jobs and moved on. Then they claim they had no choice but to quit because working conditions were so dreadful. Beat such allegations by keeping resignation letters and any notes taken during exit interviews. They help prove the resignation was voluntary.

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A federal trial court has concluded that coming to work is an essential function of one’s job. Therefore, the ADA doesn’t cover disabled employees who can’t meet that basic requirement.

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New York employers found to have discriminated against employees can be assessed fines up to $50,000 under new terms of the New York Human Rights Law. If a court finds employment discrimination to have been willful, the fines—payable to the state—may be as high as $100,000.

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You need a zero-tolerance policy banning all comments about race or ethnicity. It doesn’t matter whether the race being singled out is a majority or a minority race. The act of harassing someone because of his race is illegal either way. It also doesn’t add one bit to workplace harmony or the bottom line.

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Evelyn Coke, the Queens home health care aide who took her fight against U.S. Department of Labor overtime regulations all the way to the Supreme Court, has died at age 74.

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The EEOC has finally issued 93 pages of proposed regulations explaining how employers should implement the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA), which took effect on Jan. 1. The ADAAA expands the definition of “disability,” allowing many employees to be protected under the ADA for the first time.

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