The HR Specialist: Employment Law

Sometimes, it’s a close call to decide who will be the best fit for a job. Checking applicants’ references can break that tie. Just make sure you take careful notes during those discussions, and retain those notes in case there’s litigation.

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When an Arkansas employee tried to get workers’ comp benefits due to a back injury, the administrative law judge found there was no medical evidence to support the claim. One strike against the worker: photos on Facebook that seemed to show him moving fine while drinking and partying.

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Test your knowledge of recent trends in employment law, comp & benefits and other HR issues with our monthly mini-quiz.

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Last year, New Jersey became the first state to make it illegal for employers to refuse to hire applicants just because they’re unemployed. And Presi­­dent Obama’s jobs bill would make it an un­­lawful. Outlook: Look for more states to pass such laws, but it won’t get through Congress this year.

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You don’t have to pay hourly employees for meal breaks of 30 minutes or more, as long as they are completely relieved of their duties during the break. Many employers automatically de­­duct the meal period from time worked. But make sure there’s an easy way for employees who occasionally work through their meal breaks to report the additional paid time.

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What’s weirder: Actor James Franco earning a D in a drama class, or a NYU professor alleging he got fired for ­giving Franco the lousy grade?

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If your company has established top pay levels for each job classification, you probably end up giving some long-tenured (and, therefore older) em­­ployees smaller raises than less-experienced employees. But those older workers won’t be able to successfully claim age discrimination, as long as you can explain that the pay difference is due to your clearly documented wage schedules.

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The U.S. Department of Labor recently issued three new fact sheets that help clarify what types of employer actions rise to the level of illegal retaliation under the FMLA and FLSA.

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“Document, Document, Document.” Employment attorneys say it all the time. The quality of your documentation relating to performance management and discipline goes to the heart of your credibility as a manager or HR professional. Anything less and your documentation becomes Exhibit A for the plaintiff.

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Sometimes, layoffs are inevitable … and they’re always a legal minefield. Get it wrong and your attorneys’ fees can easily exceed the labor costs you hoped to save. Decide who should go in much the same way you decide who to hire. Look at the jobs that will survive and select the employees who best fit those jobs.

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