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The HR Specialist: Ohio Employment Law

The winter holiday season is ap­­proaching and with it, perhaps some excessively cheerful holiday glee. That may offend some religious individuals from a wide variety of faiths. But as long as employers don’t go overboard on the religious aspects of the season and don’t punish those who want to play Scrooge, a little merriment is fine.

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A new Ohio law designed to make convicted criminals more employable means you must immediately review your hiring practices.

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Butler County taxpayers now know that hell hath no fury like a court reporter scorned. When a nine-year affair between Judge Michael Sage and court reporter Jennifer Olivier ended, the strain was felt throughout the courthouse.

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On Aug. 16, an arbiter certified election results allowing employees at the Horseshoe Casino Cleveland to collectively bargain under the banner of the Cleveland Casino Workers Council.

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It’s probably a good thing this case will be heard in Lucas County Court. A former law clerk for the Toledo Municipal Court has filed a lawsuit against the city, the court and six of its judges.

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Female prison guards and Summit County officials have agreed to bring in a mediator to help settle a long-running dispute over a county policy that forbids the women from guarding prisoners who are showering. The guards claim the policy means they receive fewer raises and miss out on promotion opportunities.

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Officers and owners of Columbus-based Clark Graphics must pay back more than half a million dollars to the company’s two pension plans after federal investigators found that the money went missing because of lax oversight.

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What’s in a name? That’s what the Kettering Board of Education asked two years ago after Fairmont High School English teacher Michael Togliatti began calling his students “idiot,” “troll” and “hobbit.”

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If you were going to terminate an employee before you learned she wanted FMLA leave, you still can. Just be sure you can document when and why the termination decision was made.

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Do you have a zero-tolerance policy for workplace violence? That doesn’t mean you have to fire everyone who violates the letter of the rule. You can use some discretion, as long as you document why.

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Employees on FMLA leave sometimes think they’re immume from being discharged. That’s not true. As long as FMLA leave isn’t a factor in the decision, you can fire those on leave.

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If a pattern of employer practices seems to discriminate against a particular class of employees, expect trouble. If one employee sues, the court won’t dismiss the case until after expensive and time-consuming pretrial proceedings—if at all.

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In a sign that courts want to discourage frivolous lawsuits, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the assessment of court costs after dismissing a failure-to-promote claim. This is an extremely promising development.

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If an employee who is also in the military is called to active duty, is released with an honorable discharge and asks to return to his old job, you cannot place any extraneous conditions on his return.

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Some employees wrongly assume that discrimination must be to blame if someone doing the same work earns more than they do. But even under the Equal Pay Act, employers are allowed to value employees with more highly specific skills and experience.

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Here’s a warning to employers that use a progressive disciplinary system: Follow it—for everyone. Cutting the process short except for good, solid reasons is asking for trouble. Performance improvement plans are a good example.

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Courts understand that during a RIF, perfectly competent employees may lose their jobs. Any legitimate business reason can back up that decision. Just make sure you document the reason before you terminate anyone.

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Everyone occasionally says something insensitive. Fortunately, verbal blunders can’t form the basis of a lawsuit if the comments occurred ages ago.

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Employees who report harassment are protected from retaliation, even if the underlying complaint lacks merit.

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The FMLA is difficult to administer, especially now that it has been amended to include additional time off in connection with military service. Plus, new FMLA regulations make more workers eligible for leave if they care for a child. Rest assured that if you promptly fix an innocent mistake when it’s brought to your attention, you won’t be automatically liable for FMLA interference.

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