EEOC, DOJ team up on public-sector bias

The EEOC and the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division have signed a new memorandum of understanding firming up the agencies’ enforcement cooperation on discrimination, harassment and retaliation complaints involving local, state and federal government employees.

Worker's crazy email likely won't cost you in court

Not every complaint amounts to “protected activity” that shields an employee from retaliation.

Invoke FMLA when employee can't perform essential functions of the job


Sometimes a pregnant employee develops problems that amount to a temporary disability. But to be protected under the ADA, an employee with disabilities must be able “to perform the essential functions of the job, with or without reasonable accommodation.” If she can’t perform the essential functions, you can place her on FMLA leave.

Require health clearance before FMLA return

When one of your employees takes FMLA leave, you may require a fitness-for-duty exam showing she is fully able to perform her job before you allow her to return. As long as you require everyone who takes FMLA leave to undergo such exams, the rules authorize you to discharge workers who can’t or don’t provide certification before their return.

Trying to drive out employee can backfire

Efforts to make life so miserable for an employee that she quits can come back to haunt you. It could be seen as retaliation—even if the employee never quits.

No victim? No problem! EEOC can still sue for bias

Even if you’re not hearing complaints of bias, realize that insiders can blow the whistle on illegal practices.

Can repeated, petty complaints to HR be considered some form of harassment?

Q. A more senior employee was recently passed over for a promotion because a newer employee is clearly more qualified. Now that this person is their boss, the more senior employee has filed several petty complaints against her. Although we are aware that these complaints are completely invalid, we in HR have to take it seriously. But it is a shame for the new supervisor to have the complaints piling up in her file. Is this considered harassment?

DOL Wage and Hour Division unearths $4.5M in miner pay

Mining companies extracting gas from the Marcellus Shale formations in Pennsylvania and West Virginia violated the Fair Labor Standards Act by misclassifying employees and improperly paying overtime, according to the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division.

State Supreme Court affirms $151M verdict against Walmart

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has affirmed a Philadelphia jury’s huge verdict against retail giant Walmart. In 2006, the jury concluded the company violated state and federal wage laws when it forced employees to work through unpaid breaks and perform other duties while off the clock.

Philadelphia mayor signs paid sick leave bill

Effective May 13, Philadelphia em­­ployers of 10 or more must provide one hour of paid leave for every 40 hours an employee works. Mayor Michael Nutter had twice vetoed similar legislation, fearing that the mandate would burden city employers still emerging from the recession.

Appeal of firing doesn't give worker more time to sue

Employees who use a post-­termination appeal process don’t have a pass to miss EEOC filing deadlines. The clock doesn’t wait to start ticking until the appeal process is finished. They still have to file their agency complaints within 300 days of discharge.

Nooses in the workplace? Immediately launch thorough investigation


The only appropriate response to a claim of nooses in the workplace is an immediate investigation. That may require involving the police. Show you take the incident seriously even if the source may be a customer or a contractor. It’s the right approach and the one most likely to cut any potential liability after the fact.

Doesn't matter that he didn't put a ring on it! Engagement unnecessary for retaliation

Back in 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that an employee who was fired after his fiancé—who worked for the same employer—filed an internal discrimination complaint could sue on his own accord alleging retaliation. The fiancé, the court concluded, was within the “zone of interest” meant to be protected from retaliation under Title VII. The Court held that by firing someone’s significant other, the employer in effect would indirectly punish the complainer. Until now, exactly who would be included in the “zone of interest” was in question.

Pennsylvania bosses personally liable for bias

Here’s an important addition to your training curriculum: Make sure supervisors understand that under Pennsylvania law—unlike federal law—­they may be personally liable for discriminating against employees.

Firing for attendance? FMLA doesn't count

Here’s something to remember when you are ready to dismiss an employee for poor attendance: You can’t use any FMLA leave as a negative factor, and you can’t include any FMLA leave when tallying absences.
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