The HR Specialist: Pennsylvania Employment Law

An IRS ruling may change a long-standing practice in the restaurant industry when it takes effect Jan. 1, 2014. Gratuities that restaurants impose on large groups will no longer be considered tips after that date. Instead, restaurants must count them as wages.

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Some employees rise to a challenge; others don’t. If you are worried that an employee you want to promote might not succeed but want to give her a chance, go ahead. As long as you give her ample training, it won’t appear to be a setup.

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Some workers believe they are golden as soon as they complain about supposedly illegal employer actions. You can and should punish any be­havior you would have punished if the employee had never complained. That includes terminating an em­­ployee for post-complaint insubordination.

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An employee who files for Social Security disability benefits based on the inability to work doesn’t automatically qualify for her company’s ERISA disability benefit plan when her federal benefits come through. She can be disabled under federal law but still capable of working as defined in the company insurance plan.

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You might assume that someone won’t sue if they’ve been accused of sexual harassment by several employees and cited for poor performance. You could be wrong. That’s why you should document every discharge decision as if you expect a lawsuit.

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Being a boss is hard enough, but it’s especially difficult when un­­expected absences disrupt production schedules. Unfortunately, it’s a fact of managerial life. That’s why you should remind supervisors that they must not take out their frustrations by retaliating against employees who miss work for legitimate reasons—such as having to care for a sick child.

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Some managers mistakenly believe there’s no danger in firing a new part-time employee. That’s just not true. Remind them to always run discipline by HR before taking action.

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During a recent 12-month period, more than 7,750 wage-and-hour lawsuits were filed in federal courts, an increase of almost 10% over the preceding 12 months. Pennsylvania once again ranked among the top 10 states for such new lawsuits. The good news: There are ways for employers to reduce the risk of wage-and-hour suits, and strengthen their defenses if one is filed.

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Women’s clothing retailer Wet Seal has agreed to settle a class-action race discrimination suit for $7.5 million. Out of those funds, $5.58 million will go to compensate 1,600 current and former black managers for lost pay and promotions, termination and emotional distress.

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By now, you no doubt know that instantly firing someone who isn’t ready to return from FMLA leave may land you in legal trouble. Some employers have addressed this situation by crafting a policy that provides some additional leave. If you decide to do that, make sure you get legal help creating the actual policy.

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