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The HR Specialist

Smart employers don’t leave anything to chance when it’s time to fire someone—especially when the employee facing termination thinks he might have a discrimination claim. Instead of taking a chance that something said during the termination meeting will be misinterpreted, they make sure the meeting includes at least two company representatives …

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Employees, aided by new EEOC guidance on religious accommodations, are feeling freer to ask for time off to participate in religious worship. The EEOC guidance makes it clear that employees must make the first move to work toward an accommodation since Title VII bars employers from asking about an applicant/employee’s religion …

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The best way to avoid employment discrimination lawsuits: Make sure managers encourage employees to come forward with their concerns and complaints. Doing so shows that the company takes discrimination seriously, allows it to fix genuine problems fast and cuts the risk of a lawsuit down the line …

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Sometimes, employees who know they are in trouble will file a discrimination complaint as a pre-emptive strike. They assume their employers will worry that a court might see any further disciplinary action as retaliation. Don’t be intimidated by this tactic! …

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Employees who can show that a company routinely discriminates against members of a particular protected class will have a much easier time showing that, as members of that class, they were discriminated against, too. Perform your own statistical analyses to test your hiring practices for hidden discrimination …

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Handbooks and disciplinary rules help managers mete out consistent and fair discipline. But no handbook or set of rules can cover every possible disciplinary problem, and supervisors need some discretion when deciding what punishment fits the crime. The problem is that any deviation from the rules may be seen as discrimination if an employee who belongs to a protected class perceives that he has been punished more harshly than a co-worker who broke the same rule …

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Q. We recently received a customer complaint about a short-term employee who was already on a “last chance” warning for work errors. Can we fire her now, or do we need to first investigate the complaint? …

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Q. Our small Colorado business is growing, and soon we will have 15 employees on the payroll. How does that affect our exposure under employment laws? …

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The risk is real: Even if you draft airtight employment policies, an employee could sue you tomorrow … and a jury may believe his story. That’s why more companies are adding employment practices liability insurance (EPLI). Here’s our primer on EPLI, including a list of questions the most important questions to ask when shopping for coverage.

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A Florida judge has upheld that state’s new "guns-at-work" law that allows employees to keep firearms locked in their cars on company parking lots. But many employers are aggressively looking for ways to keep the weapons off their premises, using special exemptions built into the law. With two other states recently enacting legislation similar to Florida’s (and more poised to consider the issue next year), this is an issue HR needs to monitor.

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