The HR Specialist: Employment Law

The EEOC received a record 99,947 charges in 2011. Given this sharp increase in charge activity, now’s a good time to review your personnel policies. Consider two EEOC enforcement trends: scrutiny of background checks and inflexible leave policies.

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If a fired employee sues your organization, alleging discrimination, you’ll probably want to argue that the real reason was the employee’s poor work perform­ance. Maybe you’ll want to claim that it was a mistake to hire the employee in the first place. Well, don’t expect the court to let you go on a fishing expedition into the employee’s past jobs.

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Shuffling economic conditions and favorable rule-making in Washington helped union membership rise in 2011 by 49,000 people, up to 14.8 million workers, says the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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Some employees think they’re entitled to FMLA leave for every sickness and family emergency. They’re wrong. You should only grant leave requests based on legitimate reasons and reject clearly frivolous ones.

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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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