The HR Specialist: Employment Law

With divided government in Congress, gridlock reigns for most employment-law bills. One bill that has a slim chance: the Parental Bereavement Act, which would amend the FMLA to allow employees to take FMLA leave after the death of a child.

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The Pregnancy Discrimination Act says it’s unlawful to discriminate against applicants and employees “on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions.” But the PDA doesn’t grant pregnant workers any special, additional rights to time off for child care.

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Employers obviously can’t punish employees simply because they complain about discrimination. That would be retaliation. But that doesn’t mean you have to tolerate loud, obnoxious or disruptive complaints, no matter their content. That’s simply unacceptable in the workplace … and grounds for legal termination.

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In a public hearing this summer, business groups weren’t shy in blasting a proposal by the National Labor Relations Board that would expedite the process by which employees vote on forming a union. Brian Hayes, the only Republican member of the NLRB, called the push for such “quickie” or “ambush” elections a “radical manipulation of our election process.”

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If an employee asks you to ap­­prove an especially long vacation, and you suspect the reason may be a covered condition under the FMLA, beware automatically rejecting the request. You may risk an FMLA in­ter­ference lawsuit. Plus, any subsequent discipline could be considered retaliation.

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Verizon’s recent $20 million settlement of a class-action lawsuit—the largest disability settlement in EEOC history—is shining a spotlight on the legal risks of no-fault attendance policies. The lawsuit claimed the company violated the ADA by refusing to make exceptions to its no-fault attendance policy to accommodate employees with disabilities.

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Whether or not to pay employees for on-call time comes down to one question: How many restrictions are you putting on the employees’ personal time? The EEOC says on-call time be­­comes compensable under the FLSA “when the on-call conditions are so restrictive or the calls to duty so frequent that the employee cannot effectively use on-call time for personal purposes.”

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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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While you shouldn’t punish employees who complain about working conditions (pay, perks, supervisors, etc.) on social media sites, you don’t have to tolerate overt insubordination or workers who violate confidentiality rules.

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“Recent college graduates” in their “early 20s and 30s” is how ­Cavalier Telephone described—both orally and in writing—their preference for sales candidates. This overt age bias brought the wrath of the EEOC.

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