The HR Specialist: Pennsylvania Employment Law

Here’s something to warn super­visors about after an employee has filed a discrimination or harassment complaint: Even if the initial complaint proves unfounded or too minor to be illegal, any punishment the complaining employee experiences later may amount to retaliation.

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Because the ADA requires employees to show they are disabled based on individual restrictions, a class-action lawsuit against an employer isn’t appropriate in most cases.

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The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case involving Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel. Workers at the company’s Gary, Ind., plant claim they should be compensated for the time it takes them to change clothes for work at the work site.

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Cyrilla Landscaping in Coraopolis, outside Pittsburgh, has agreed to pay $39,091 in back wages to 29 workers following a DOL investigation—plus another $39,091 because the feds found the violations were willful.

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Most companies maintain large amounts of data about their employees, some of which may be considered personally identifiable information. It must be carefully guarded to ensure employee privacy and prevent identity theft. You must understand the relevant laws and your obligations to protect employee data.

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The ADA doesn’t cover everyone who has any kind of medical problem. Even something like complete deafness in one ear may not be enough to make an employee disabled.

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Rebuffing the EEOC, a federal judge has ruled that U.S. Steel can randomly test new workers for substance abuse.

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Sometimes, pressing business matters require a supervisor or other company representative get in touch with an employee who’s out on FMLA leave. As long as the contact is limited to true business needs and isn’t unduly restrictive or intrusive, the contact won’t cause you to lose an FMLA interference lawsuit.

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The key issue in most race discrimination cases: different treatment for people of different races. A court recently ruled that it wasn’t protected activity when a black employee complained that one black job applicant had been subjected to greater scrutiny than another black applicant.

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It’s a perennial puzzle: How should employers handle it when an em­­ployee has an FMLA-covered serious health condition that is also an ADA disability? Answer: Consider FMLA leave the minimum amount of un­­paid leave the employee can take.

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