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The HR Specialist: Employment Law

If supervisors disproportionally push either men or women to perform certain distasteful or dangerous tasks, you could face a sex discrimination claim. If that happens, you had better be prepared to show that gender is a bona fide occupational qualification for the tasks.

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It’s more important than ever now for HR professionals to independently check supervisors’ disciplinary recommendations to ensure that they have no ulterior motives. That’s because the U.S. Supreme Court, in a much-anticipated “cat’s paw” ruling, said that an employer can be found liable for the discriminatory intent of supervisors who influence—but don’t ultimately make—an adverse employment decision.

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Since 1991, when the ADA gave disabled people the right to bring service animals into shops and other public buildings, a variety of animals became characterized as “service animals.” New Department of Justice regulations that took effect March 15 say only dogs (and miniature horses in some cases) now qualify as service animals.

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Employers are required to provide and pay for most types of employee personal protective equipment (PPE), such as goggles and earplugs, but not for others, such as steel-toed boots. OSHA just released a new enforcement guidance document that explains those differences.

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Hourly employees know that if they work overtime, their employer must pay them for the extra hours. That’s true, but it doesn’t mean they can work OT whenever they feel like it. Here’s how to end unauthorized overtime:

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Some employees with chronic health conditions believe that getting approved for intermittent FMLA leave means they can take protected time off anytime they feel sick. That’s simply not true. Intermittent leave can only be taken for illness, treatment or flare-ups directly related to a condition for which a health care provider has certified intermittent leave.

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The National Labor Relations Board last month said it planned to file a complaint against media firm Thompson Reuters for reprimanding a reporter over a Twitter post that criticized management. The NLRB settled a similar case in February involving a worker fired for Facebook postings critical of her boss.

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Last month, OSHA withdrew two of its controversial proposals opposed by business groups. But OSHA left open the right to address both issues again in future regulations.

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In late 2010, the EEOC published GINA regulations that provide employers with specific guidance concerning what information they may gather about their employees, how GINA interacts with the FMLA medical certification process and how any genetic information the employer obtains is to be treated.

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While unions have shown a resurgence in certain sectors, the overall percentage of U.S. workers who are members of a union dipped to 11.9% last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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