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Legal Clinic

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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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Researching Job Applicants Online
Question: Some of our hiring committee employees have gotten into the habit of using the Internet to research our job applicants (both before and after they come in for interviews). Because something tells me this may not be such a good idea, I have told them not to do this while on company time, as I can't control what they decide to do in their free time. Is my concern warranted?
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Limiting Exposure
Question: I am the HR professional at a child-care institution. We just learned that one of our best-performing employees was recently arrested for exposing his private parts in public. This has caused us great concern given the nature of our business and we are thinking of firing him just on account of his arrest. Can we fire him based on this arrest or are we prohibited from doing so?
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ADA Accommodation and the Office Thermostat
Question: Can you provide a summary of the Americans with Disabilities Act's requirements for reasonable accommodations? Specifically, does the ADA consider sensitivity to temperature to be a serious medical condition that requires an accommodation? We have an employee who repeatedly complains about the office temperature -- saying it is either too hot or too cold and claims that the temperature needs to be adjusted to accommodate her medical condition. She claims we have to accommodate her under the ADA but this seems excessive to us.
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Preparing for a Deposition
Question: I am the HR director of a small company and have just been served with a deposition subpoena in a case where a former employee alleges that she was the victim of sexual discrimination when she was not promoted and was sexually harassed at work. I have never been deposed before and have not yet had any contact with our company's legal counsel. Can you please give me some tips on what I can expect from the preparation phase and the deposition itself, as well as what documents, in general, I should expect to be asked about when I am deposed?
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A Case of the 'Mondays' Not Covered By Title VII
Question: One of our employees has requested a religious accommodation to not work on Mondays, claiming that she practices her religion on Mondays as it is a so-called holy day for her. The problem is she admits that she is not a member of any recognized religious group. She also claims that she is the founder of her "religion" and currently the only person she knows who practices it. Under these circumstances, are we still required to provide her with this religious accommodation?
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Updating Emergency-Response Procedures
Are we legally permitted to ask our employees to disclose their medical information in order for us to assess what if any special emergency response accommodations we need to have at the ready for disabled employees (both those with visible disabilities and those without)?
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Handling Complaints Properly
Is the company required to investigate complaints that come in to me at training sessions (outside of the standard procedure) or can we require the employee to first follow the standard complaint procedure before we address the complaint?
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Terminating an Addicted Employee
We have an employee who is a chronic prescription drug abuser. He has not been performing at work but every time we try to terminate him for cause, he immediately enters a drug rehabilitation program in order to avoid termination under the ADA, claiming that he has a disability. Does the ADA require that we keep this under-performing employee on our payroll just because he is enrolled in a drug rehabilitation program?
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Avoiding Unemployment Discrimination
A lot of attention has been paid to proposed or enacted legislation that prohibits discrimination in hiring practices against job applicants who are currently unemployed. Can you give us an overview of: (i) the states that have enacted this sort of legislation; (ii) the key provisions of the legislation; (iii) the states that have proposed such legislation; and (iv) what employers can do to prepare and comply?
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Employing Minors
With the summer around the corner, our company has gotten a lot of applications from teenagers and 18-year-olds. We would like to hire them, but don't want to violate any federal or state laws that deal with the employment of minors. What federal and state laws apply to employing people who are 18 and under, and what are the requirements that we have to meet? We are in the food and beverage manufacturing industry.
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A 'Very Uncomfortable' Request for FMLA Leave
We have a very uncomfortable situation at work. One of our employees has asked for FMLA paternity leave to take care of a newborn child whom he claims is his. The problem is, this employee did not give us any prior notice of the birth, and his wife (whom he lives with) is not the mother of this child. He has apparently fathered this child with one of the women whom he has been having an affair with. Can we ask this employee to provide us proof that he is, in fact, the father of this child as a requirement for granting him FMLA leave?
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