The HR Specialist: Employment Law

While the DOL cleared an executive order that would have made it illegal for federal contractors to discriminate against employees (or applicants) based on their sexual orientation, President Obama is not expected to sign the order, although he favors the idea.

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OSHA last month issued a memo alerting its field officers to watch­­ out for employer policies and incentives that could discourage workers from reporting injuries.

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Oregon last month followed New Jersey’s lead in establishing a law that makes it illegal for employers to refuse to hire applicants because they’re unemployed.

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Do you sometimes grant employees “­special leave” to take care of their school-age kids? Beware if you allow special leave for mothers in your workplace, but not for fathers. One court just warned, “A company’s ‘special leave’ not grounded in law just may be discriminatory.”

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When you get wind of a potential harassment situation at work, one of HR’s first steps is to talk to the alleged harasser. It’s highly unlikely you’ll get a full confession in that first meeting. Your role is to sort through the explanations to identify the truth. Be on the lookout for these 10 common excuses:

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OSHA has updated its hazard communication standard to harmonize it with international standards. Com­­panies that manufacture, transport or have chemicals in the workplace must begin complying with the new standard by June 26.

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Sexual harassment victims deserve to have their claims investigated, not ignored. Under no circumstances should you encourage a complaining employee to quit instead of having to endure continued harassment. That’s a sure indication to many juries that the worker was punished for reporting sexual harassment.

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A few years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court said employers fighting claims of age discrimination carry the burden of proof to show that their alleged discriminatory decisions were actually based on a “reasonable factor other than age (RFOA),” not discrimination. The EEOC has issued final regulations that clarify RFOAs.

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After employees take medically re­­lated FMLA leave, they sometimes aren’t able to physically perform their jobs. Employers can certainly raise the issue with the employee and can even terminate the employee if he or she can’t perform the job. Just make sure you keep the ADA limitations in mind.

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Facebook says it’s seen “a distressing increase” in reports of employers seeking to gain access to employees’ profiles. Several states are taking action.

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