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The HR Specialist: New York Employment Law

When a former Burger King employee complained to the EEOC that she had been sex­ually harassed at one of the chain’s restaurants in Glens Falls, N.Y., the EEOC sprang into action. As part of its efforts to stop sexual harassment against teenage employees, the agency began looking at more than 350 Burger King restaurants in 16 states. The agency eventually sued.

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Here’s some food for thought you may want to pass along to supervisors, managers and your colleagues in HR who deal directly with employees. If they are actively involved in any activity that creates a hostile work environment, they may find themselves personally liable as an aider and abettor.

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Some supervisors can’t or won’t refrain from finding ways to punish employees who complain about alleged harassment or discrimination. That’s why it’s important for someone in HR to follow up on every complaint—even if it turns out to be unfounded—and ask whether there’s been any retaliation.

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In New York, employees are protected from discrimination based on their sexual orientation. Just as in other discrimination cases, when the conflict is between supervisor and subordinate, courts try to sort out whether the problem is a case of personality conflict or sexual orientation discrimination.

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Courts love to see good records that support employer discipline—records created at or very near the time events occurred. That’s why every manager needs to know how to document discipline and who gets a copy for later use.

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Score one for common sense: People who want a job they see posted have to apply before they can sue for not getting it. A phone call to HR that was never returned can’t be grounds for a failure-to-hire lawsuit.

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A federal court has dismissed a case that could have created big headaches for any employer trying to prevent a discharged employee from receiving unemployment compensation benefits.

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Employees who use up their FMLA leave may still be entitled to more time off when that leave expires. Some additional time off can be a legitimate reasonable accommodation under the ADA. But if the employee still can’t return after additional leave, it may be time to discuss termination.

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New York employers in the hotel and restaurant industry have a new pay rule to work with, changing how tip income is handled and tweaking other details that affect how much pay workers take home.

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Employees at Century 21 Department Stores in New York City and Long Island undergo searches every time they leave the store for breaks and at the end of the day. They say the process sometimes takes 15 minutes or longer. The problem: Century 21 makes them clock out first. Employees say that violates the FLSA.

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