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The HR Specialist: Employment Law

OSHA just released its list of the most frequently cited workplace safety and health violations for fiscal year 2011. Topping the list: fall protection in construction, scaffolding in construction, hazard communication, respiratory protection, lockout/tagout, electrical wiring methods, powered industry trucks, ladders in construction ,,,

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The EEOC issued an advisory letter last month that gives employers more clarity on their proper use of applicants’ arrest and conviction records during the hiring process.

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OSHA has issued its first written en­­force­­ment instructions regarding incidents of workplace violence. Officials will use the directive to decide whether allegations of workplace violence warrant an investigation.

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A customer service rep at a call center went out on bereavement leave at least once a month. Lots of aunts and uncles, he said. The HR department discovered the employee had a family member on the “inside” at the funeral home who was creating a fake program for each fake funeral.

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The FMLA says employers can run out the FMLA clock by counting paid time off against an employee’s 12-week leave entitlement. Make sure employees understand how that works. That way, employees won’t run out of leave and lose their jobs because they didn’t realize the FMLA clock was ticking.

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Some workers file hiring-bias lawsuits before they bother submitting an application or telling any­one they’re interested in a promotion. Fortunately, they rarely win. Absent some direct evidence that an employer routinely rejects applications of a protected class, failure to complete an application or express interest in a promotion bars such a lawsuit.

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Before you toss that handwritten note into the employee’s file today, stop for a second and read it. Years from now, will you remember what that chicken-scratch meant? Many lawsuits have turned on one or two words scrawled by a manager or HR pro after employee meetings and conversations.

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An hour worked must be an hour paid, according to the FLSA. For private employers, that means there’s no such thing as an employee putting in “volunteer” time. While the FLSA has been around for decades, some employers still think they can circumvent this inconvenient truth.

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This was not the year to get sloppy with your I-9 forms. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement issued a record 2,393 audit notices to inspect employers’ I-9s this year, a more than 375% increase from audits in 2008.

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In light of the highly publicized scandal at Penn State University, one HR lesson is obvious: Employers can never ignore reports of misconduct or harassment by employees against anyone. But at what point does harassment cross the line into something more seri­­ous (like assault) that requires an employer to call the police?

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