The HR Specialist: Pennsylvania Employment Law

An angry judge has ordered the EEOC to pay $4.7 million in legal fees incurred when the national trucking firm CRST had to defend itself against a flurry of sexual harassment suits, many of which eventually turned out to be baseless.

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You may think that an employee who admitted to bringing a racy photo to work and showed it around couldn’t later complain when she became the target of sexual harassment. You would be wrong.

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You don’t want to fire an employee without good grounds. Sudden deterioration in performance may be real—or a sign of age discrimination. Be especially cautious if the employee’s replacement is more than five years younger or the employee has complained about age-related comments.

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It’s impossible for everyone to remember exactly what happened during an interview held several years earlier. But that’s what an interview panel may be asked to do if a candidate sues. The best approach is to ask the panelists to take notes. Then you should collect all the panelists’ notes for potential future use.

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In July, the Obama administration gave employers with 50 or more employees until January 2015 to begin providing health insurance coverage for full-time employees. Some companies challenged parts of the law in court because of their owners’ religious beliefs. They lost in the 3rd Circuit.

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While family responsibility discrimination (FRD) is not a new protected category (and no federal law expressly prohibits employment discrimination against caregivers), a number of laws provide protection for employees with caregiving responsibilities.

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The former public safety director at Harrisburg Area Community College has filed a complaint alleging he suffered retaliation after he engaged in protected whistle-blowing activity. The director is still employed at the college, but has been stripped of his duties, computer and vehicle, and now sits in an empty office with nothing to do.

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The Pennsylvania State University Medical Center is being sued by a cancer surgeon who alleges he was fired in retaliation for defending the FMLA rights of his secretary—who was fighting cancer.

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Good news for employers that have had to revoke conditional employment offers: Employers that discover disqualifying information after an offer has been tendered but before the candidate starts work are free to revoke the offer. That won’t result in a big jury award.

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Fired employees who file lawsuits alleging they were singled out for discipline because of some form of discrimination usually follow a basic legal strategy. They try to find a former co-worker outside their protected class who was punished less severely for similar conduct. Your best defense against those lawsuits is to make sure you carefully document all discipline.

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