Q&A

Can we deduct uniform costs from paychecks?

01/01/2007

Q. We require new employees to buy their top uniform from a uniform company. The uniforms vary depending on the position and have the company’s logo on them. The uniform typically costs between $20 and $45 and is a smock, polo shirt or vest. The employees can deduct that amount from their paychecks or pay for it by personal check or credit card. As the HR manager, I take care of this process for them. Is this procedure legal under Texas law? —D.S.

Second Opinion on Fitness-for-Duty Certificate

01/01/2007

Q. We have an employee returning from FMLA leave. His physician issued a fitness-for-duty certificate, but we question the worker’s ability to perform his old job because the length of his absence was too short for him to recover completely. Further, the fitness-for-duty certificate simply states that he is “able” to work, without addressing his specific job duties. Can we send him to another physician for a second fitness-for-duty examination? —A.L.

Pregnancy shouldn't affect employees' discipline

01/01/2007

Q. If an employee is already on probation when she becomes pregnant, how does an employer continue with progressive discipline measures, including possible discharge? —P.A.

Must we give a fired employee his personnel file?

01/01/2007

Q. I recently discharged an employee for performance problems. At the end of the termination meeting, he asked for a copy of his personnel file. Do I have to give discharged employees a copy of their personnel files? —B.N.

How to pay hourly workers for weekend travel time

12/01/2006

Q. How do you pay hourly employees who are traveling on a day that's not considered a workday, like Saturday or Sunday? What if they normally have a 10-minute commute to the office but instead they have to go to the airport, and the airport is an hour from their home?

Should we require harassment claims be in writing?

12/01/2006

Q. Our new plant manager wants me to revise our sexual harassment policy to require that complaints be in writing. He says this will formalize the procedure and help ensure that only valid complaints are filed. I don’t think this is a good idea. Is it?

Docking employee's pay for missing laptop

12/01/2006

Q. An employee who recently quit hasn’t returned a company-owned laptop computer worth over $1,000. Can we withhold the value of the computer from the employee’s last paycheck?

Injured worker can collect workers' comp and sue

12/01/2006

Q. One of our employees badly hurt himself when he tripped over some equipment that had been left by the building maintenance. Workers’ comp covered his medical bills and lost wages, but he also sued the building for negligence. Now we have a letter from the office building demanding that we defend them in the lawsuit and telling us we are responsible. How can that be? I thought we were protected by workers’ comp from any suit involving an employee injury?

'Secret' reviews are bad policy and may be illegal

12/01/2006

Q. We don't allow our employees to read or comment on their evaluations. Instead, we discuss the content with them one-on-one and have them sign an acknowledgment that they have discussed their performance. Do we have to show them the actual evaluation or give them a copy?—D.J., Michigan

Don't dock hours from salaried employee's pay

12/01/2006

Q. We have a salaried employee who holds down a second job. Sometimes, she leaves early on Fridays and comes in late on Mondays because the second job overlaps with our office hours. Can we deduct anything from her pay after she has used up her vacation and leave time? Or do we have to pay her even though she leaves early and comes in late? —D.J., Virginia

Pay travel expenses for new, longer commute?

12/01/2006

Q. One of our employees normally reports to a facility. But he's out on workers' comp and is doing light duty in the office, which is an extra hour of commuting time. I know we don't have to pay for his commuting time, but what about his travel expenses? —M.T., Massachusetts

Know which leave counts toward FMLA

12/01/2006

Q. I told an employee who takes lots of intermittent FMLA leave that all of her time out of the office (no matter what it was for) would count against her FMLA time. My VP called me in and told me I was wrong and that was absolutely NOT the law. What is the best way to track her intermittent leave? Do I ask for documentation each time? —J.S., Texas  

Contesting Unemployment for Drunk Ex-Employee

12/01/2006

Q. We sent an employee home because he came to work clearly intoxicated. The police later picked him up wandering around, and he missed work because he was in jail sobering up. We fired him, and he filed for unemployment. Can we use the police report to challenge his unemployment claim?—R.H. Florida

'Not accepting applications' sign is legal

11/01/2006

Q. If we don't have a job opening, are we required to hand out applications to anyone who asks? Or can we just say that we're not taking applications at this time? —J. I., Washington

Workers' comp liability for aging employees

11/01/2006

Q. One of our employees is over age 70 and has had a broken foot, memory problems and a recent car wreck that caused some residual problems. Should we allow her to work? What can we do (if anything) to protect ourselves from potential workers' comp claims should she injure herself?