Mindy Chapman, Esq., Mindy Chapman & Associates

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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While the ADA requires companies to make
job accommodations for disabled workers, you don’t have to employ
anyone who can’t perform the “essential functions” of the job. And
on-time attendance is an “essential function,” right? Not necessarily,
as the following case shows …

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Does your organization have a
blanket policy of refusing to hire any applicant with a criminal
record? If so, make sure you can explain exactly why. A
recent Pennsylvania court ruling shows that across-the-board “no
ex-cons” policies can quickly run into legal trouble unless you can
prove the restriction for a specific position was “job-related and consistent with business necessity”…

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What do you do when a chronically absent
employee—who’s already received a last-chance warning—is absent again?
Do you have to sort out whether that final “last-straw” absence is
covered by the FMLA, even if you could have fired the person weeks
earlier for being MIA?

The answer is unequivocally “yes”

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Question: Think you’ve got a dysfunctional workplace? Take a stroll through the recent 6th Circuit ruling in Parker v. General Extrusions.
The case describes a workplace in which Nancy Parker, one of the few
female employees on the machine-shop floor, was repeatedly taunted,
called names and physically harassed. The response from managers and HR
ranged from mild rebukes to outright humor.

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It used to be that you could keep your religious beliefs about
sexual orientation to yourself. Not anymore. As a new court ruling
shows, if you’re the defendant in a sexual-orientation discrimination
lawsuit, a court may want to get inside your head in order to help
prove WHY you are discriminating…

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Say four of your salaried, exempt employees are burning the midnight
oil this summer on a special project. Their boss wants to reward them
with extra pay and/or extra vacation hours. But you raise this legal
red flag: Won’t giving them such an “overtime” bonus be treating them
more like nonexempt employees and, therefore, destroy their exempt status? The answer: No … as long as you structure that extra compensation in the right way …

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Unfortunately, your HR personnel files are a goldmine for identity thieves,
filled with all kinds of juicy personal data. But a new court
ruling shows that the rise in identity theft doesn’t excuse employees
from disclosing their SSNs to employers …

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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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