The HR Specialist: Employment Law

One of the few times you can overrule an employee’s religious accommodation requests is when safety is involved, as the following case shows.

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Does your computer system allow employees to write notes about customers? Do your employees think the customers will never see those notes? That’s a recipe for a disaster, as a California restaurant found out.

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Some employees believe all they have to do to invoke FMLA leave protection is to call in, say they’re “sick” and wait for their employer to request medical certification. Wrong! Merely calling in sick doesn’t trigger any employer obligations under the FMLA.

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After the EEOC’s informal discussion letter about ­employers’ use of high school diplomas as a hiring prerequisite “caused significant commentary and conjecture,” the EEOC decided last month to issue additional guidance to help clarify the issue.

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Some employees are simply difficult to manage. They start arguments and may see harassment or discrimination at every turn. Sometimes they cross a line, implying they could get violent. How you handle their complaints can spell the difference between winning and losing a lawsuit.

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The FMLA does not give employers the right to decide that an employee’s sick relative has enough assistance and doesn’t need your employee’s help. That argument won’t fly—from a compassion or legal perspective.

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Sometimes, it’s obvious that a disciplinary policy isn’t working. Occasionally, management’s ideas about discipline evolve. When you do replace your discipline policy, make sure you document exactly when the change went into effect. That way, an employee who is punished more severely can’t point to the earlier disciplinary actions as evidence he was unfairly singled out.

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On the surface, internship arrangements look like a win-win: The employer gets free labor. The intern gets valuable training and builds skills. But before you get carried away by the prospect of marvelous production for virtually no cost, let’s have a reality check.

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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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A handful of high-profile legal disputes are shining a bright light on an often-ignored issue: Should employers be required to pay interns at least the minimum wage?

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