The HR Specialist

The U.S. Department of Labor has proposed new regulations that would require 401(k) administrators to reveal their fees—but not to employees.

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After using up their available 12 weeks’ unpaid FMLA leave, many new mothers request additional time off. If you agree to additional time off to be covered by a short-term disability policy, check to see if that policy includes job protection. If it doesn’t, you don’t have to hold her job or even reinstate her. Don’t, however, start the search for her replacement while the employee is still on FMLA leave …

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Concerned that any discharge decision you make will be second-guessed by a court or jury? Ease that worry by adopting a fact-based approach to discipline that relies on easily proven and verifiable work problems. Avoid generalities such as “just not working up to potential” or “not a team player and others have to pick up the slack.” Instead, go for the specifics …

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Open a New York newspaper and chances are you’ll see a headline featuring an employer in deep trouble for allegedly allowing an atmosphere of sexual or racial harassment to flourish. When you receive such a complaint, act immediately. Don’t wait. Often, that’s exactly what the employee’s attorney is hoping. Instead, investigate and reach a conclusion …

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You would think it’s common sense, but apparently it’s not. While viewing pornography may be perfectly legal in one’s home (with some exceptions, such as that containing images of children), such viewing has absolutely no place at work. The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals consistently has ruled “the mere presence of pornography in a workplace can alter the ‘status’ of women” and may be objective proof of a hostile environment …

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Q. I know I’m supposed to investigate harassment complaints. I just don’t know what law requires it. Exactly why does an employer need to conduct an investigation of a harassment complaint? …

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Q. If a victim of sexual harassment wants the matter dropped, do we still have to conduct an investigation? …

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Q. If we start an investigation about sexual harassment, is there anything we need to worry about while conducting the investigation? …

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Employers must stay abreast of an alphabet soup of federal laws—ADA, ADEA, FMLA and so forth—each with its own requirements. To comply, you first must know which laws apply to your business, based on the number of people you employ. Here’s how to tell which laws affect your workplace … and which ones you can safely ignore.

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Q. If an employee is involved in a “fender bender” en route to a work-related meeting in his or her personal vehicle, is the employer liable? …

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