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Requesting a Criminal-Background Check
In what stage of the hiring process can employers request an applicant to submit to a criminal-background check? Can they ask for it early on in the interview (to see how he or she reacts) or do they have to wait until they give the applicant an actual offer?
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HR Legal Terms Explained
A helpful glossary of legal terms explained, from cat's paws to the difference between disparate impact and disparate treatment.
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Companies That Sue for Defamation
Companies -- not just people -- are capable of being defamed, which means they can file defamation suits against ex-employees who make disparaging public statements against their former employer.
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Disclosing Medical Information on Reference Calls
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, an employer's ability to legally disclose medical information on a reference call turns on whether the medical information was obtained by the employer because the employee voluntarily disclosed the information to his employer, or whether the medical information was obtained by the employer through a medical inquiry that the employer made to the employee.
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Child Pornography at Work
Possessing or viewing child pornography is illegal under federal law. Therefore, if your company's employees use your company's computers and servers to possess child pornography, both the employee and your company could potentially face liability.
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Drafting Effective Confidential Agreements
Agreements that limit the ability of a former employee to find work because of access to proprietary information may be challenged in court. Restrictive covenants and noncompete agreements must balance the interests of the organization and the former employee.
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Classifying Employees
While there are substantial benefits derived by an employer when workers are independent contractors instead of employees, there are also substantial risks. And to make it more difficult, there is no easy way to determine which classification is the correct one.
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On Leave -- and Out of a Job?
When an organization seeks to fire an employee receiving long-term-disability benefits, it's important to ensure the employee -- and his or her co-workers -- do not perceive such a termination as disability discrimination.
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Inspecting Personnel Files
While employers in some states have no legal obligation to provide inspection of personnel files or provide copies of reprimands, there are some good reasons for doing so anyway.
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Every Dog Has Its Day ... At the Office
The state and federal legal issues associated with permitting service animals in the workplace revolve around the Americans with Disabilities Act, reasonable accommodations and what constitutes undue hardship.
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Dressing for Success
Having a dress code -- and not having a dress code -- can pose potential problems for employers. When creating such a policy, be prepared to offer work-related reasons for the rules and to treat the genders equally -- although that does not mean the rules need to be identical.
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Debating Politics at Work
When employees become unwillingly caught in the crossfire of a political debate, it's time for HR leaders to establish policies and practices that ensure that such discussions do not lead to lawsuits alleging discrimination.
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Verifying Healthcare Eligibility
Employers are permitted to -- and frequently do -- require proof of marriage before providing healthcare benefits to dependents or spouses. But, in this era of increasing legalization of gay marriage and civil unions, the proof employers require must be the same for all married couples.
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Hiring, Relatively Speaking
Crafting an anti-nepotism policy needs to take into account the potential for unintended discrimination or disparate impact created by such a rule. It also should address issues associated with cohabitating or romantically involved co-workers.
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Forcing a Resignation
Micromanaging an employee and making working conditions intolerable in the hope that the worker will resign leave a company open to litigation based on "constructive discharge." It's up to HR leaders to educate managers on how to avoid such potential claims.
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Best Performance-Evaluation Practices
The Legal Clinic offers some best practices for preparing for -- and conducting -- performance evaluations. Effective evaluations often result in improved employee performance, but, if not, the accompanying documentation will be useful should termination be necessary.
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Best Practices in Reference Checking
While it is conventional wisdom that only name, title and dates of employment should be given in reference checks, that is not the case. Most states offer employers a "qualified privilege" to provide references regardless of how negative they may be -- but that won't protect an employer who provides misleading or false information about a former employee.
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Best Practices for Diversity
Before initiating diversity programs, HR leaders need to set specific goals -- and avoid legal pitfalls -- when enhancing development programs for current employees, expanding recruiting and hiring, and rethinking promotion and other company policies.
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