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The HR Specialist: Pennsylvania Employment Law

A bill to provide protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual em­­ployees has picked up some surprising support in the General Assembly. The bill, which was introduced with 102 co-sponsors, would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity or expression in employment, housing, credit and public accommodations.

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The financially troubled Harrisburg University of Science and Tech­­nol­­ogy has asked a federal judge to dismiss a retaliation lawsuit filed by a former professor. She claims she was fired over criticism she and her husband leveled against university officials.

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Many employers have revised their handbooks to include language requiring all employees to treat one another—as well as customers—with respect. But that doesn’t mean that em­­ployees who feel “disrespected” have grounds for a lawsuit.

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Here’s a bit of good news for employers that try to accommodate disabilities but whose efforts are rejected out of hand: When you offer what looks like a reasonable accommodation and an employee refuses to even try it, you are no ­longer obligated to retain her. A worker who rejects an offered accommodation is no longer covered by the ADA if she doesn’t even try it first.

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Using temporary workers can be an effective way to stretch your labor budget without making a long-term staffing commitment. But if a temp sues over alleged discrimination, you may not have saved much money. To prevent surprises, make sure you treat the temp as a guest—leave the employment details to the agency that supplies the temp.

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Sometimes, two employees who break the same rule don’t deserve exactly the same punishment. But employers must make sure they can explain the difference.

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The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments in two lawsuits challenging a state law requiring judges to retire at age 70. A 1989 decision, Gondelman v. Com­­mon­­wealth, upheld the practice as constitutional, but several judges are asking the court to look at the issue anew.

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When we think of bullying, we usually think of kids at school, not adults in the workplace. But, according to a 2010 survey, 35% of American workers have been bullied at work. Unfortunately for those employees, there are currently no federal or state laws that specifically prohibit bullying in the workplace. That may soon change.

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A federal judge in Western Penn­­syl­­vania has chastised the EEOC for not attempting to conciliate discrimination charges in good faith. The criticism stems from a bias complaint the EEOC investigated against a group of six Ruby Tuesday restaurants.

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Employees are supposed to receive the same compensation for the same work regardless of sex. But that doesn’t mean you can’t pay some men more than some women, even if it’s crystal clear that they’re doing the exact same job. That’s because the Equal Pay Act allows for differences that can be accounted for by any factor other than sex.

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