The HR Specialist: Pennsylvania Employment Law

An employee who takes FMLA leave is entitled to return to his job (or an equivalent one) when his leave is up if he can perform that job without any accommodation. However, if the employee is disabled under the ADA, he may be entitled to a reasonable accommodation under that law.

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You’re almost guaranteed a messy lawsuit if you ignore an employee’s complaint that a supervisor used a racial epithet. Courts have ruled that even a single use of the N-word can be enough to create a racially hostile work environment when the speaker is a supervisor.

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Never automatically assume an employee who is performing well is disabled—even if you observe what you think are signs of a disability. It could mean losing big if the employee sues.

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Here’s an important reminder for all supervisors: Innocent age-related comments can come back to haunt you. That’s especially true if the comments come from someone who has a direct say in hiring and firing decisions.

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Two recent settlements make what should be an obvious point: You can’t misappropriate employees’ retirement money and expect to get away with it. Cases in West Chester and Bethlehem show that the feds will come looking for you, and make you pay it back.

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Some employees act as their own lawyers, something that can put employers at a disadvantage. That’s because courts bend over backward to make sure an unrepresented litigant gets his day in court.

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You probably think that once a contract employee’s contract expires, that’s the end of the matter. You don’t renew the contract and she moves on. That may not be the case. She can still sue over Equal Pay Act claims for at least two years after her last check.

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Should you worry every time you retain one employee and dismiss another who belongs to a different protected class? Probably not—as long as there’s no other reason to believe that the terminated employee’s protected status was the reason he was fired.

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It’s always wise to keep careful records showing exactly why you terminate employees. They’re crucial if an employee ever sues. By showing specific reasons why you fired someone, you will be able to show the court that the termination was appropriate.

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Faced with a sick employee, you may recommend short-term disability leave to receive medical treatment. But that could violate the ADA if the employee neither needs nor wants all that time off.

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