The HR Specialist: Employment Law

Some employees—seeing their FMLA eligibility on the horizon—may ask for FMLA leave before they’ve actually hit the one-year and 1,250-hour eligibility milestones. That’s OK. Remember, employers can’t deny an employee’s FMLA re­­quest simply because it was made before the employee became eligible.

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The EEOC has an inde­pendent right to investigate discrimination claims and can expand investigations well beyond any initial complaint. For that reason, it’s important to pro­­actively look for inadvertent discrimination in all your hiring and em­­ployment practices. Don’t wait for the EEOC or a state anti-bias agency to come snooping around.

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Business groups aren’t pleased with new U.S. Department of Labor proposed changes to the so-called “persuader” regulations under the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act. They say the changes will restrict access to legal counsel and make it easier for unions to organize.

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More than a decade after the U.S. Supreme Court decided its biggest cases on sexual harassment and hostile work environment, women are still filing and winning sexual harassment lawsuits. Many of those cases could easily have been prevented if HR and upper-level management had taken regular, surprise walks through the workplace and rooted out obvious signs.

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With tornados, floods and fires topping the news in recent months, a question arises: What’s an employer’s obligation to give FMLA leave when the disaster affects employees or their families?

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Make room for another poster on your breakroom wall. The National Labor Relations Board announced last month that most private employers will have to display a new poster in their workplaces that notifies employees of their right to form or join a union. The poster is available now for download on the NLRB website.

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Federal religious discrimination law (Title VII) says employers are obligated to “reasonably accommodate” an employee’s religious belief and practices, unless doing so would cause an “undue hardship” to the organization. In this case, accommodating an employee’s request for every Sabbath day off could effectively invalidate a collective-bargaining seniority system and create a real hardship for the other employees who would have to work instead.

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A DOL ruling last year that clarified the definition of “son or daughter” under the FMLA opens up the potential for employees to take leave to care for siblings or other family and nonfamily members. If the employee is serving in the parental role for a sick child, he or she may be eligible.

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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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Employers operate in an increasingly complex legal environment, made all the more difficult by the tough economy. Hiring has emerged as a particular trouble spot. Here are the key liability hot spots you must watch out for in the hiring process:

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