The HR Specialist: Employment Law

Courts are beginning to realize that there is only so much an employer can do to prevent sexual harassment. Take, for example, alleged sexual harassment that occurs off-duty and off-premises. While it’s likely that employers would be responsible for a supervisor’s sexual assault or harassment, chances are they won’t be held liable for the same conduct by a co-worker.

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Most people think of 50 as the magic number for the FMLA. “Oh, we have 50 employees, so now we have to comply with the FMLA,” is a popular refrain among HR departments. It is not that simple. The FMLA has two different rules that must be met before you have to offer FMLA leave to an employee—coverage and eligibility.

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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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A recent BusinessWeek story pours out several examples of companies embracing the idea of drinking at work. While occasional celebrations are fine, offering an unlimited liquid buffet is simply asking for employment law trouble.

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Make it clear with employees—early and often—that your electronic communications are not their private playground. Legally, it’s your organization’s property and you have the right to monitor every email as you wish.

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While employees who break rules usually expect to be punished, they also expect to be treated fairly. That’s why it’s important for man­agers and HR to strive for consistency in all discipline. Never punish one em­­ployee more harshly than someone else who committed the same infraction.

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You can’t prevent every vulgar act an employee may commit. But you can and should act fast when you learn about misbehavior. As the response by Xerox managers in the following case shows, a single incident that doesn’t involve outrageous behavior or a physical assault typically isn’t sexual harassment in the eyes of the court—unless the employer ignores the incident and allows the problem to escalate.

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The immigration status of employees is irrelevant when it comes to their ability to file and win Fair Labor Standards Act lawsuits, as a new case shows.

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The EEOC recently issued long-awaited final regulations to the ADA Amendments Act, clarifying many of the confusing provisions contained in the 2009 law. The final regulations further expand the ADAAA’s goal of broadening the definition of “disabil­ity” under the ADA. As a result, a greater number of employees will be covered under federal disability law and be eligible to file ADA-related claims.

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You may have heard that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services published final regulations—which took effect May 16, 2011—regarding employers’ Form I-9 employment verification practices. The good news: You don’t need to change any of your current practices—as long as your forms and practices are up-to-date.

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