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Mindy Chapman, Esq., Mindy Chapman & Associates

Responding to a harassment complaint is a lot like running a sprint race—even if you start well and do everything right, one trip near the finish will wipe you out. For HR, the most common problem comes when it handles an initial harassment complaint or lawsuit just fine, but then some genius in the office decides to “get back” at the complainer in some way. Doing things 99% right just isn’t enough to stay out of court…

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The right timing is an important thing in most contact sports … including layoffs. And suspicious timing is always a red flag to employees and to the courts, as new lawsuit against Boeing shows. If your organization suddenly changes its employee-scoring rules (to the employee’s detriment) prior to a layoff, it will undoubtedly raise eyebrows that something fishy is going on. The courts call it “pretext” for discrimination … your employees will call it something worse …

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When an employee says “No” to the sexual images posted in co-workers’ workstations and to their sexually laced comments, your company better listen … and act. It can’t become caught up in a debate over “how much” porn is acceptable. As a new lawsuit shows, even if an employee initially tolerates a sexually charged workplace, she can drop the lawsuit hammer at any time.

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The U.S. Labor Department issued a report yesterday that said all is not well in the land of FMLA. Shocking, truly shocking! And we in the employer community thought things were so rosy…

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Question: It’s natural to get mad when one your employees files a legal complaint or lawsuit. Getting mad is fine … getting even isn’t. But “getting even” seems to be a popular pastime in American businesses today. That’s why claims of retaliation are the fastest-growing form of illegal discrimination claimed by U.S. employees.

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Try this on for gross. A female employee gains access to her boss’s e-mail account without permission and discovers a vulgar e-mail sent by a male co-worker to her male boss. The subject of the e-mail: her genitals. So, does this create an illegal hostile work environment, even though the e-mail was not sent to the woman and she was never intended to read it?

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When you have to perform reductions in force, the best strategy for avoiding age-discrimination lawsuits has nothing to do with a “strategy” at all—it’s all about making sound decisions based on honest, documented employee rankings, as telecom giant Sprint Nextel has just learned the hard way.

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This week’s important U.S. Supreme Court ruling on pay discrimination resulted in a major victory for employers nationwide … and an unusually heated debate between Supreme Court justices. The 5-4 vote means employees no longer can sit on wage discrimination claims for years. They have only 180 days to file their claims with the EEOC or the claim is forever barred. Period. Sounds like good news, right? But be aware: This ruling likely will, in the short run, lead to a spike in pay-discrimination claims…

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In the good old days, employers used to have control over who they hired. Not anymore. Today, the EEOC has the power to decide who you will have to roll out the red carpet for.

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How would supervisors in your organization handle this situation: A female employee walks into her boss’s office and complains that one of her co-workers showed her pictures of himself engaged in … activity best reserved for the privacy of one’s own home (get the gist?). Pretty serious stuff. Apparently one guy didn’t think so …

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