The HR Specialist: Employment Law

In private-sector workplaces, em­­ployees do not have First Amendment rights, as public employees do. But certain laws do provide em­­ployees with some protection for certain types of expression at work.

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The days of happy alumni singing your praises seem to be over. More than three-quarters of departing workers say they would not recommend their ex-employer to others, according to a new Corporate Executive Board survey.

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When employees complain about alleged discrimination or harassment, smart HR pros make it a point to check back regularly with the employee who voiced the complaint. Then, they document those conversations and address any problems reported by the employee. This simple step carries two important benefits.

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Terminations are the spark to many employment lawsuits. And for each of the six kinds, there are some common steps employers can take to make sure they defend themselves if the termination is challenged in court …

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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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