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The HR Specialist: Pennsylvania Employment Law

Under the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act (PMWA), employees engaged in administrative work aren’t eligible to collect overtime pay. But what about employees who spend a lot of time in the field—calling on clients or prospects, for example?

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Employees are protected from retaliation for opposing discriminatory employer practices. But that doesn’t mean they can voice that opposition in a disruptive or discourteous way.

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Employees with psychological problems may claim they can’t handle the stress of working more than a regular 40-hour week. But if that’s the only restriction the employee has, he’s probably not disabled.

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Home improvement giant Lowe’s is offering free health screenings to its employees. Lowe’s partnerships with health care providers throughout Pennsylvania mean employees will be able to get free checks of their blood pressure, total cholesterol, triglycerides, glucose, waist size, hip size, weight, height, body fat percentage and body-mass index.

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According to the latest numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Pennsylvania lost 65,000 union jobs last year, and the rate of union membership declined from 15.4% to 15%. The number of union jobs in Pennsylvania fell from 847,000 to 782,000.

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St. Luke’s Hospital and Health System in Bethlehem will screen new hires for tobacco use and not hire anyone who tests positive for nicotine. Current employees will not be tested. Employees who fail the screening may try again in six months.

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There’s a flood of employment law litigation sweeping the nation. Blame the recession. Employment-related cases are clogging court dockets at the state and federal levels. The EEOC is fielding more and more employment discrimination claims. Facing these realities, alternative dispute resolution is becoming increasingly popular as parties look for more efficient, less expensive conflict-resolution mechanisms. Arbitration is the type of alternative dispute resolution that’s attracting the most attention.

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Companies that use freelancers, consultants, per diems, long-term temps and other contingent workers are under assault. The federal government is poised to take a leading role in cracking down on employers it suspects of misclassifying employees as independent contractors. The feds aren’t alone …

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Remind everyone involved in the hiring process: It’s much better to pick up the phone to discuss a candidate than it is to send an e-mail. E-mails can be recovered (and used as evidence in court); phone calls cannot.

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Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2009 Gross v. FBL Financial Services decision, employees suing for age discrimination have had to prove that “but for” the employee’s age, the employer wouldn’t have taken the adverse action it did. Gross generally benefited employers, but it also raised the stakes. Now, managers’ ageist statements can really have an impact.

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