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Legal Clinic

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Top Legal Developments in HR
Question: I am putting together a high-level presentation for my HR team on the top legal developments in 2013 that will impact how we practically manage employee relations in workplace in 2014. Can you please identify and provide a brief synopsis of the most important employment-related legal developments in 2013 -- something like a Top 10? I want to make sure I know about all the "biggies."
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Offering Reasonable Accommodation
Question: You have written a lot about the importance of engaging in the interactive process under the Americans with Disabilities Act in order to figure out whether an employer can offer a reasonable accommodation for an employee with a disability. Can you give some more insight into the process itself -- such as a step-by-step how-to guide for HR professionals to reference when engaging in the ADA's interactive process?
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When Workers File EEOC Claims
Question: We have a couple of employees who have recently filed Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claims against our company. These employees have had poor performance issues, are constant complainers and we believe their filing was not done for any legitimate reason, but instead was done solely to protect their jobs. After their filing, they have become brazen in their bad behavior, but their supervisors are scared to supervise or reprimand them and co-workers are afraid to work with them for fear that they will end up in the complaint. This is negatively affecting our productivity and morale. How would you recommend we handle this situation?
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Dreadlocks and the Dress Code
Question: One of our workers has begun wearing his hair in a dreadlocks style to work. This is against our organization's dress code, which is very conservative in nature. That said, we also want to respect diverse cultures and peoples' desire to express their diversity of culture, but doubt that his decision to wear dreadlocks is a reflection of this because he does not self-identify as African American, African or Caribbean. Are we legally permitted to require him to change his hairstyle at work -- or even ask him to change it?
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Is Obesity a Serious Medical Condition?
Question: Is obesity considered a serious medical condition under the Americans with Disabilities Act? Also, is it a condition that would have to provide a reasonable accommodation for? We have an employee who is morbidly obese, has asked for us to provide him with a bariatric sized chair (that costs a couple thousand dollars), and to place him in a ground floor office so that he does not have to take the stairs though we have very limited ground floor office space.
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Mandatory Retirement Incentive Programs
Question: We are considering instituting a mandatory retirement incentive program at our company, but don't want to run afoul of the law in doing so. Can you please explain who we are permitted to include in a mandatory retirement program and who has to be excluded? We are in New York state.
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Mandatory Arbitration Provisions
Question: We are in the process of revising our employment agreements and want to put in a mandatory arbitration provision for all employees who have discrimination and wrongful-termination claims. Can you give us some tips on what such a provision should and should not look like in order to make sure it will be enforceable?
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Pros and Cons of 'Attitude' Surveys
Question: What are some of the legal pros and cons of having employees complete annual employee satisfaction or attitude surveys? We are thinking about doing them, but want to make sure we have considered all the benefits and drawbacks before we move forward.
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Recording Conversations with the C-Suite
Question: We have just learned that some employees have been secretly tape-recording conversations they have with management. Is there something we can do to prohibit this?
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Unpaid Foreign Interns
Question: We have taken on a large number of unpaid interns from foreign countries this summer. Are these foreign interns covered by OSHA's recordkeeping requirements?
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