HR Strategy

28

May, 2015

3 Top Employment Law Audit Items: Get Your HR House in Order

Employers are most vulnerable to employment law claims when their business practices are out of sink with current legal standards.  Our top three:

  • new hire notices,
  • background check procedures, and
  • staff classification.

With just a small time investment to check current practices regarding new hire notices and background check procedures, you can save your business many headaches down the road.  Depending on the size and nature of your workforce, a review of staff classification may be a lengthier project, but is well worth the investment in reducing your liability exposure.
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30

March, 2015

What is it with Pregnancy?

Pregnant employees, as a protected class, are having their moment in the sun.  The United States Supreme Court just held in Young v. United Parcel Service, Inc. that pregnant employees may be legally entitled to accommodation of their pregnancy-related work limitations, even if those limitations do not meet the threshold of a legally-recognized “disability”.  Also, for the first time in 25 years, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission updated its Enforcement Guidance on Pregnancy Discrimination in July 2014 to declare that pregnant employees should receive the same types of accommodations, for example modified tasks, alternative assignments, or leave, as an employer accords to disabled employees who have requested a reasonable accommodation.

As I discussed earlier this year, in 3 Hyper-Local Laws Employers Can’t Afford to Ignore, various states and municipalities (including New York City) have recently passed laws providing enhanced protection to pregnant employees.  Bills offering similar protections are pending in other state legislatures.

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10

March, 2015

LIFE’s LESSONS* Spring 2015, Real Issues…Reconstituted Facts

PRIORITIZE THESE TOP FOUR HR AUDIT LIST ITEMS

We are deviating from the usual hypothetical situation here, in recognition of spring cleaning season, to focus on four of my top HR audit list items, and why I would encourage every employer to make them a priority:

1. Review Your Employee Handbook

Many of the local and state laws creating new leaves of absence and protected classifications also require employers to notify employees of their legally protected rights.  Employee handbook policies may satisfy these notice obligations and, even where that is not the case, the policies may need to be updated for consistency with current legal requirements.
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28

January, 2015

When Power Should Go to a Manager’s Head (or at least stay top of mind)

It may seem obvious, but all too often managers seem to forget that power disparities in the workplace can turn otherwise innocuous encounters into fodder for a sexual harassment claim.  That is how Steelcase, a Michigan-based workplace furnishings manufacturer, incurred years of legal expenses defending a claim of sexual harassment by a former sales manager.  She claimed that a regional manager twice held his hand on her shoulder for an extended duration and commented on how she owed him because he had done a lot to get her hired.  These events occurred ten months prior to her termination for poor performance, and based on the absence of any allegedly inappropriate conduct in the intervening months, the federal appellate court ultimately upheld the dismissal of her legal claim.  But the claim might never have been made were it not for the regional manager’s indiscretion in maintaining an extended hold of her shoulder, a touch that might have been received differently had it been among peers.

It’s not just physical touching that can be problematic.  Fry’s Electronics reportedly paid $3.2 million to settle a sexual harassment and retaliation claim a few years ago.  According to the EEOC’s press release (and the EEOC regularly issues a press release when it negotiates a settlement), the case revolved around encounters between an assistant store manager, a female sales associate, and the sales associate’s direct manager.  The sales associate complained to her direct manager that the assistant store manager sent her frequent, sexually charged text messages and invited her to his house to drink.  The sales associate’s direct manager was fired after he reported the complaint.
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5

January, 2015

New York State Removes Annual Wage Notice Requirement

Employers are no longer required to annually distribute a notice of wages to their employees pursuant to New York Labor Law section 195.1 (otherwise known as the New York Wage Theft Prevention Act).  The requirement to distribute this notice and obtain each employees’ acknowledgment of receipt between January and February 1 of each year was repealed, effective immediately, as part of a series of amendments to the law that were signed by Governor Cuomo in the final days before of 2014.

Employers are still required, however, to provide the written notice of wage rates to all new hires and obtain their written acknowledgment of receipt. In addition, the recent amendments to the law provide that violations of the notice requirements or other provisions of the state wage laws will result in substantially more punitive consequences for employers including:
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