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The HR Specialist: Pennsylvania Employment Law

A former employee in Bank of America’s mortgage office in Pittsburgh is suing the bank, claiming he was fired because of his disability.

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The National Labor Relations Board, the federal agency charged with enforcing the National Labor Relations Act, has increased its focus on employer/employee communications. This matters to all employers, whether or not their employees are represented by a union.

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The Obama administration has informed federal contractors—whose funding could be slashed if a lame duck Congress fails to act before the end of the year—that they don’t have to worry about one of them yet: issuing layoff notices required by the WARN Act.

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When an employee has a life-threatening and acute illness, he may need time off to recover. That’s a legitimate use of FMLA leave. But what if the employee fully recovers and comes back to work with a clean bill of health from his doctors, yet still feels weaker, more fatigued and not quite back to full health?

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It’s frustrating to deal with employees who call in on short notice to say they won’t be able to make it to work. Even so, don’t let it get to you. An angry reaction could launch an FMLA lawsuit. That could happen if you are already thinking about terminating the employee.

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Make sure managers and supervisors understand that belittling name-calling has no place in the workplace and won’t be tolerated. Bans on obscenity aren’t enough. You must also stop other sexist terms, such as referring to a woman as “Barbie.”

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Supervisors who handle employee return-to-work requests following FMLA leave must know what they are doing. Otherwise, your legal risk could rise significantly.

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You will never know which employee will sue or for what reason. That’s a good reason to carefully track all discipline and make the records easy to access.

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When an employee takes FMLA leave because her physician says she’s too sick to work and needs to stay home, it’s natural to assume she’ll follow the doctor’s orders. But what if you discover that she isn’t—and is instead working for someone else during her leave? Can you terminate her? Of course.

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Employees are typically ineligible for unemployment benefits if they were fired for creating a hostile work environment. That usually amounts to willful misconduct, which disqualifies them from collecting unemployment. But not every crude or stupid action is serious enough to bar benefits, as this case shows.

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