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The HR Specialist: New York Employment Law

You can’t prevent every vulgar act an employee may commit. But you can and should act fast when you learn about misbehavior. Doing so can keep a minor problem from growing into a major one.

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Employees occasionally have to step in on short notice to help care for a family member and may legitimately need FMLA leave to handle those responsibilities. Go ahead and suggest FMLA time off. However, until the employee takes you up on the offer, you can hold her to your regular attendance policy.

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Some employees and applicants think that if they sue often enough, they’ll eventually end up collecting the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Fortunately, judges don’t like wasting valuable courtroom time on meritless cases. More and more, they are blocking efforts to file additional lawsuits by employees acting as their own lawyers.

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Most workers are at-will employees, who can be fired for any reason or no reason at all, as long as your actions don’t violate anti-discrimination laws. That can tempt some supervisors to get lazy and fire a difficult employee without documenting exactly why. That’s a big mistake.

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When an employee complains about some form of discrimination, review the record to help you assess the claim. For example, if the employee says he didn’t get a promotion because his fe­male supervisor favors women, looking over her promotion practices won’t take long and can reassure you that the employee has no case.

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Pass along this reminder to supervisors: Any legal documents they receive must be forwarded right away to HR and your attorney. Other­wise, you could miss important deadlines. Worse, you could automatically lose the case, even if it has little merit.

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Mama’s Pizzeria in Copiage will be serving up $780,000 in back pay and liquidated damages to its 40 employees to settle a federal lawsuit. An investigation by Wage and Hour officials found that many of Mama’s employees were forced to work 70 to 80 hours a week without receiving overtime pay.

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A group of volunteer firefighters for the Amityville Fire Department will share $209,280 after they settled a lawsuit alleging discrimination in the way cash bonuses were handed out.

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This year is shaping up to be a tough one for organizations worried about employment law issues. So far, the U.S. Supreme Court has decided three big employment law cases—and every time, ruled in favor of employees. The latest expanded employer retaliation liability under the FLSA. But that’s not this year’s only press­ing wage-and-hour problem. Pay atten­tion to these other issues:

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Under limited circumstances, a job applicant might be able to win a discrimination lawsuit without actually applying for a job. For example, someone could conceivably prove that it would have been be futile to even bother filling out an application. Fortunately, such cases are rare.

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