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The HR Specialist: Ohio Employment Law

HR professionals must make sure that supervisors hear this message loud and clear: Don’t make any assumptions about what a pregnant woman can or cannot do. Voicing such presumptions and taking action based on them virtually guarantees a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit.

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If you employ licensed professionals such as nurses or pharmacists, the time may come when you have to report shoddy practices or ethical lapses to the Ohio board that issues and maintains their licenses. To avoid a lawsuit over whether your report was malicious and therefore not covered by an employer privilege, carefully document the acts and behavior that you believe are negligent or unprofessional. Be sure to let the employee respond to your concern.

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A court has ruled that an employer isn’t liable for defamation when employees discuss what may or may not have led to disciplinary action.

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Site Selection magazine—whose readers decide where to locate new corporate facilities—has ranked Ohio as having the third-best business climate in the nation, behind only North Carolina and Texas.

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Lisa Drozdowski worked as a flagger for Danella Construction, which operates in 10 states, including Ohio. She was often asked to help laborers perform other tasks on the job site. But when she applied for a laborer position, which pays better, she was told the company did not hire women as laborers. Drozdowski filed a complaint with the EEOC …

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Here’s an incentive for managers and supervisors to avoid doing anything that smacks of possible discrimination. While federal civil rights laws generally don’t make managers and supervisors personally liable for discrimination, Ohio state law does. That should be a powerful incentive for line managers and supervisors to avoid creating a hostile work environment.

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It makes sense that if an employee’s doctor releases him to return to work with no restrictions, the employee can’t be disabled. Don’t make that dangerous assumption! The ADA covers employees when their claimed disability affects a major life function—and that function can be one that’s not an immediately obvious factor at work.

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An Ohio appeals court has ruled that an employee who quits to have a child and isn’t otherwise eligible for maternity leave isn’t entitled to unemployment.

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Industrial fastener and tool manufacturer SFS Intec has agreed to settle an EEOC discrimination lawsuit arising at its Medina plant. Two Hispanic employees complained of being denied training opportunities that were open to non-Hispanics.

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OSHA has levied $321,000 in fines against UCL Inc., a Cincinnati-based bridge and tower painting company. The fines stem from nine willful and two serious workplace safety violations related to lead exposure.

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Because FMLA leave is an entitlement, employers aren’t allowed to interfere with it. Interference can include things like requiring employees to perform work during their leave. That’s why it’s important to make arrangements for getting work done without requiring assistance from the employee on leave.

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Employees who take FMLA leave are entitled to be reinstated to their jobs if they return to work when their 12 weeks off expire. But many employers provide additional time off. But if employers grant that additional leave, they don’t have to reinstate the employee to the same or an equivalent position when she returns.

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If you’re one of the hundreds of Ohio employers that capitalized on job-creating state tax incentives a few years ago, expect to hear from state authorities shortly. Attorney General Richard Cordray has an assignment for you: Prove Ohio’s subsidy paid off in actual jobs.

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When promotion processes bypass qualified candidates, discrimination lawsuits are almost sure to follow. That’s because employees can easily poke holes in complex candidate-ranking systems, and supervisor bias emerges when promotions are on the line. If you have set criteria for promotions, make sure you follow your own rules.

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Employers can’t guarantee that employees will never feel offended by a co-worker’s comment about race, ethnicity, sex or other protected characteristics. But employers can and should make sure employees know what to do if they do feel offended or harassed—and then track exactly how the matter was handled.

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We all know that it costs money to train employees—and that turnover after investing in advanced training is a genuine and expensive problem. That doesn’t mean employers can get away with refusing to train someone approaching retirement age. That may be seen as age discrimination.

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Disciplining employees often requires making tough calls, especially when the disciplinary action is based on the word of co-workers. You may be forced to choose whom to believe. Don’t be tempted to ignore the complaint just because you can’t be sure who’s right. As long as you are honest, courts will be reluctant to second-guess you.

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Like the ADA, Ohio’s disability discrimination law covers only some injuries, illnesses and conditions. It doesn’t cover temporary injuries.

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Ohio fared well in a recent Forbes magazine ranking of how hospitable the nation’s 50 largest cities are to working moms. Cincinnati ranked the nation’s sixth-best metro area for working mothers, while Columbus came in 13th.

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Employees who aren’t disabled under the ADA can still be eligible for FMLA leave because a health condition can be serious without being a disability. That means you really need to consider requests for ADA accommodations separately from any requests for FMLA time off. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that denying an ADA accommodation means you can deny FMLA leave, too.

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