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Legal Clinic

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Handling Holiday Parties
Question: As we embark on the holiday party season, I would like a refresher on what sorts of things I need to be aware of when my company hosts a holiday party. At last year's party, one of our supervisors had a little too much to drink and became a bit too "friendly" with his staff. No one came forward and complained, but this supervisor's conduct was the subject of some office gossip the next few weeks. I'd like to have a better understanding of the liability that a company could face because of actions taken at a holiday party, and I also would appreciate some tips on how best to prevent issues from arising at a party.
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Avoiding Wrongful-Discharge Suits
Question: Can you give us some tips on how we can best avoid a wrongful-discharge claim or suit?
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Defining What's 'Essential'
Question: Under the ADA, we always hear a lot about accommodating employees with disabilities as long as they can continue to perform the "essential" functions of the job. Can you please explain what legally constitutes an "essential" function of a job?
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Asking Questions about Ebola
Question: We are all frightened by the recent Ebola crisis and would like some guidance on what HR can and cannot do to help address employee concerns and protect the workplace. Are we allowed to ask employees who come from the countries where there is an outbreak to get tested and confirm that they have not been exposed to the virus as a condition for them continuing to work with us?
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When an Ex-Employee Sues
QUESTION: Our company has recently been sued by a former employee. This employee is asking for compensatory damages, injunctive relief, punitive damages, front pay, back pay and "any and all damages that will make him whole." I am new to HR and am working with the company's lawyer to collect information to defend against his claims, but I would appreciate it if you could provide me with an explanation -- in layman's terms -- of what each of the things he is asking for means. What could he recover from his lawsuit?
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Drinking with Co-workers
Question: We are a very social office. Many of our supervisors go out drinking with employees on Fridays and we hear that at times things can get a little raunchy when people are drunk. Can this off-work behavior result in potential liability for the company?
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Sick-Leave Policies
Question: We are a company based in New York and have been receiving a lot of inquiries from employees about the New York City Earned Sick Time Act. They think it entitles them to five extra days of earned sick time, but we already have our own sick-time policy. Do we have to give our employees five extra days of sick time?
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Developments in Social-Media Policies
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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Compensating 'On-Call' Workers
Question: Due to the nature of our business, we would like to require our employees to be "on call" during certain days. Of course, if we call them in to work on those days we will pay them for the time worked. However, does federal law require us to compensate our employees on the days that they are "on call" but not asked to report to work?
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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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