Mindy Chapman, Esq., Mindy Chapman & Associates

“Do that one more time and you’re through!” Have
supervisors in your organization (or even you) uttered this phrase
before? A new court ruling shows that if your firing threats are simply
empty promises, be prepared to pay up in court … even if you
responded promptly and lawfully to the initial complaint.

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Many
companies have horribly confusing organizational charts—or no org
charts at all. A new court ruling issues a stern warning to employers:
If you want to avoid harassment liability, you’d better get your
straight-edged ruler out and connect employees to their supervisors by
name.

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Ever have employees tell you they need time off for religious
reasons? Or, that they won’t perform a certain task because it’s
against their religion? Their managers may be tempted to yell “Clam up
and get back to work,” but that’s an expensive reply, as two new court
rulings show.

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Overtime and
harassment are big deals, but a less headline-grabbing
risk—retaliation—may be an even bigger danger. And a new court ruling
shows that employees who reach out to the police to report inter-office
harassment can also earn legal protection from being fired or any other
form of retaliation.

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You
can’t expect employees to walk into HR and ask, “May I have a
reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act of
1990? Oh, and don’t forget to engage me in the required interactive
process!” As
the following case shows, blowing off that interactive process could be
seen by the courts as “bad faith,” which gives the employee a direct
admission ticket to a jury trial …

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Does your organization have a policy requiring employees to retire
(or step down to a lesser position) once they hit a certain unbecoming
age? Does that sound like your strategic succession plan—push your
working geezers and geezeretts out the door so younger workers can
climb the ladder? If so, a groundbreaking $27.5 million EEOC settlement
last week shows that you better retire those policies … not the people…

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You’ve probably heard
about this week’s big $11.6 million sexual harassment verdict against
former basketball star and New York Knicks coach Isiah Thomas. The bad
news: Your employees heard about it, too … and it planted a seed in
their minds …

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Does your company allow employees to play music while they work? Do you
ever pay attention to the words? The EEOC says maybe it’s time you plug
in. Some
companies that don’t monitor their employees’ choices in music just
might be singing the “EEOC blues,” as the following case shows…

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Next time you have to decide if an employees’ medical condition is
“serious” enough to qualify for FMLA leave, maybe you should grab your
Grey’s Anatomy medical book (or maybe just watch the TV show) to brush
up on your ability to diagnose. That seems to be what a court is urging
in an important ruling that many have overlooked.

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Sometimes, truth is stranger than
fiction. That’s certainly true with the, um, “unique” religious
discrimination case that comes to us this month from America’s
heartland. The case hammers home a clear lesson: It’s never appropriate
for company leaders to force employees to adhere to certain religious
practice …

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