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Mindy Chapman, Esq., Mindy Chapman & Associates

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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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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