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The HR Specialist: Pennsylvania Employment Law

The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals has issued an opinion that may result in many more sex discrimination lawsuits at work. The case allowed an avowedly homosexual man to file a sex discrimination and harassment lawsuit based on his effeminate mannerisms—even as the court reiterated that sexual orientation isn’t covered by Title VII.

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Here’s advice that bears repeating to everyone involved in hiring and firing: Never opine that you’d prefer someone of the opposite sex to do a job. Word will get around … and you’re sure to get sued.

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Employees who are unable to perform anything but sedentary work may be disabled under the ADA. That means employers may have to find ways to accommodate them, including finding open positions for them to fill elsewhere within the company.

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If you use employment contracts for key employees, and those contracts include a “for cause” discharge clause—essentially allowing you to terminate the contract (and employment) for specified reasons—include a paragraph that includes acts or omissions that occurred before the contract was signed.

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Employees who need FMLA leave don’t have to specifically say so. They just have to give enough information to let their employers know they may have a serious health condition. That’s why you need to train supervisors to let HR handle all leave requests involving health problems of any sort.

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Employees who have minor physical problems—even permanent ones—aren’t necessarily disabled and entitled to ADA accommodations. The test in each case is how the impairment compares with the average member of the general public.

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Lawyers are always looking for new and different reasons to sue employers on behalf of employees and applicants. That’s bad news for employers, because additional charges mean greater legal costs, more lost time and potentially higher jury awards. Fortunately, courts are growing impatient with this practice …

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According to an EEOC complaint, North Carolina-based Professional Building Systems has subjected black employees in Pennsylvania to harassment that included drawings depicting members of the Ku Klux Klan. The complaint also alleges nooses have been displayed in the workplace …

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Perhaps the irony is lost on those who don’t remember the ’60s. Ruby Tuesday Restaurants—named after an early Rolling Stones hit—has been charged with violating the ADEA by refusing to hire applicants over age 40. If allegations by the EEOC are true, Mick Jagger himself couldn’t get hired at the store’s franchises …

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A manager for PetSmart’s Pottstown and Wyomissing, Pa., stores got his employer in the doghouse after he sexually harassed female employees. It seems the manager was something of a beast. When female employees complained, they got the corporate equivalent of “Sit! Stay!” PetSmart failed to address the women’s concerns.

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