The HR Specialist

Exactly what is race? And who is a member of a protected class based on race? Does the color of one’s skin count more than the country of origin? Those are some of the questions a federal appeals court recently tackled …

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Nothing disrupts the workplace like a rude and nasty employee—especially one who thinks she’s smarter than everybody else and constantly tries to show it by criticizing co-workers and others. To stop the damage, you may have to act firmly, even if that means the employee may sue. If you back your actions with solid evidence, chances are a judge will throw out the case …

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Imagine how awkward it would be to have an employee sue her employer and then stay on the job. There’s a real danger that the worker will become supersensitive to workplace slights. She may think every comment is meant to punish her for the lawsuit—and that every thwarted promotion request is direct retaliation …

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Most employers start thinking about possible ADA accommodations right away, before they are sure that the affected employees are actually disabled. That’s fine and won’t mean the employers can’t require medical proof later. Agreeing to accommodate is not the same as admitting the employee is disabled …

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Q. I have heard that Illinois law requires background checks for employees. Is this true? …

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Q. In Illinois, do noncompete agreements apply even when someone is terminated, as opposed to resigning? …

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The reality of the modern workplace is that at any given time, someone is going to be unhappy. Promotions may not come. Resentment may arise from working with employees from many racial, ethnic or religious backgrounds. Simply put, it’s next to impossible to prevent all discrimination claims. You can, however, minimize the risk of being sued by developing clear and open workplace and promotion policies …

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The quickest way for an employer to get into big trouble is to retaliate against an employee who files a discrimination charge. Any negative employment action after the charge is filed may mean an additional lawsuit. Instruct managers to document any alleged poor performance—and make sure they use only objective, concrete measures …

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Investment bank Smith Barney, a division of Citicorp, confirmed last week that it agreed to pay $33 million to about 2,500 current and female brokers to settle a gender discrimination lawsuit. The $33 million is in addition to the $18 million the firm paid to settle a 1997 discrimination lawsuit alleging that female brokers were sexually harassed in the brokerage’s infamous "boom-boom room" …

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It almost never looks good in court when an employee who has been with the company for decades suddenly loses his job. For many potential jurors, that smacks of age discrimination even before they’ve heard any testimony. That’s one reason to try to get age cases dismissed long before a jury gets a chance to impose its judgment …

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