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The HR Specialist: Employment Law

When supervisors hear someone complaining about sexual or other harassment, they may be tempted to blow it off as a distraction or tell the co-workers involved to stop it. That’s not good enough. To prevent a successful employee lawsuit, you must impress on first-line supervisors and managers that it’s their responsibility to report any sexual harassment complaint to HR or other appropriate company official.

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Last month, The HR Specialist hosted the 7th annual Labor  & Employment Law Advanced Practices (LEAP) Symposium in Las Vegas. Here are a few nuggets of insight and advice from the more than 30 attorney speakers:

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For years, business groups have unsuccessfully lobbied Congress to give employers the option to substitute compensatory time off for overtime pay—an option currently allowed for public employers. Now, some state legislatures are taking up the cause.

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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 new Towers Watson study says that 21% of employers increased their liability limits for their directors & officers liability coverage last year, compared with only 12% who did so in 2008.

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With state unemployment funds drying up, the Obama administration’s budget proposal calls for increasing the wage base for the Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) tax paid by employers.

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The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has published an updated version of its I-9 Handbook for Employers. Among the notable updates, according to an Ogletree Deakins report, the handbook affirmatively states that employers should not begin the I-9 process until the person has accepted a job offer.

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You’d like to think that employees will never do or say anything even mildly offensive. But that’s just not realistic … and courts don’t expect it to be. As long as workplace squabbles and personality conflicts don’t turn into discrimination based on age, race, religion or another protected category, they simply won’t rise to the level of unlawful discrimination.

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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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