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Employment Law

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COBRA: Ready for the Antiques Road Show?
Managing a total-rewards program that engages and retains your top talent is hard enough without the clutter of outmoded legislation. We can respect COBRA's historic background, but acknowledge it doesn't quite match present-day realities. Can we call it a benefits antique -- once a modern solution to a real problem, but now looking very dated?
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Don't Break GINA'S Rules
In the wake of a recent settlement announced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, experts advise employers to take immediate measures to ensure they are not violating current laws against the collection of genetic and family medical-history information.
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The ACA and Nursing Mothers
While organizations are required to provide nursing mothers with reasonable amounts of break time for expressing milk and non-bathroom spaces that afford privacy to do so, a recent NBC News investigation finds many employers are struggling to properly accommodate these workers.
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Obama: Fill the Skills-Shortage Gap
In his State of the Union speech, President Obama unveiled new plans to increase the nation's supply of skilled workers. However, not all are convinced that a skills gap truly exists.
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Stopping Bullying in the Workplace
Employers in all industries can learn some valuable lessons on employee relations as the Miami Dolphins bullying case plays out in the international media.
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Drawing the Line on Social Media
Creative uses of social media by employees may not always comply with an employer's view of acceptable behavior and may necessitate their termination, but HR must consider myriad laws before taking enforceable action.
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Is Severance Pay Subject to FICA?
After conflicting decisions in the lower courts, the Supreme Court will soon decide whether workforce-reduction-severance payments are considered wages that should be subject to Federal Insurance Contributions Act taxes. Regardless of that outcome, though, experts advise employers to take a proactive approach on the issue.
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'Waiving' Goodbye to Class-Action Suits
A federal appeals court recently ruled against the National Labor Relations Board, saying employers can prevent class- and collective-action lawsuits by instituting an arbitration agreement with a class-action waiver. But will it take a Supreme Court decision to force the NLRB to change its official stance on such waivers?
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Still Unclear on ADA Accommodations?
If so, you're not alone. A recent study finds half of employers struggling to determine when an ADA accommodation imposes an undue hardship on their organization. Experts say employers and HR must work closely with employees -- and their supervisors -- to provide an accommodation that is amenable to all involved.
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Lawsuit Raises FCRA Fears
A class-action lawsuit against Disney serves as a stark reminder that employers better follow the letter of the Fair Credit Reporting Act when it comes to notifying job candidates or employees about adverse actions against them due to something that showed up in a background-screening report.
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Workers Recording Workers
While 13 states prohibit employees from recording co-workers in the workplace without their consent, it is legal in the remaining 37 states. A judge's decision in a recent case involving Whole Foods may only add to the employer confusion around the topic.
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OSHA Proposal Comes Under Fire
Employers and industry groups are voicing concerns over a proposed rule that would require thousands of companies to electronically submit injury and illness data to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration on a quarterly basis. Observers say these worries are well-founded, and caution HR to prepare for ramping up OSHA recordkeeping training should the rule be finalized.
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Paving a Way to Greater Flexibility
San Francisco became the first municipality in the country to pass an ordinance that gives employees working in the city the right to request changes in their working arrangements in order to meet their caregiving responsibilities. Some experts predict other cities and states could soon follow with similar regulations.
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Drug-Free Workplace Act Turns 25
Passed by Congress in 1988, the Drug-Free Workplace Act was a limited -- but effective -- beginning to the workplace's war on drugs.
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Confusion about Criminal-History Guidelines
Survey shows vast majority of HR executives think their organizations are compliant with EEOC criminal-background guidelines, yet a significant number still ask about criminal histories in job applications.
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Good Samaritan, Bad Policy?
Wal-Mart recently made news by firing -- then offering to rehire -- an employee who violated company policy while helping a woman being attacked on store property. While workplace violence policies are certainly necessary, employers may still want to consider circumstances and intent when disciplining employees who come to another's aid, experts say.
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Taking It Straight to the SEC
The SEC has awarded $14 million to an unidentified whistleblower who went directly to the agency without first bringing the complaint to his or her employer. Experts say the award will likely spur more whistleblowers to take the same route, and urge HR to actively encourage employees to report internally.
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HR and the Supreme Court
For the current U.S Supreme Court session, experts say the few HR-related cases in front of the U.S. Supreme Court could have repercussions for employers, though nothing at the level of a Dukes v. Wal-Mart.
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Legal Clinic Column

Question: There has been a lot of recent talk about social media with respect to employer monitoring of employees' social-media activity and, more specifically, what employers can and cannot ask employees related to their social-media activity. Can you please provide a summary of the recent developments in this area?
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