Q&A

Can We Reduce Benefits to Citizen-Soldiers?

02/01/2007

Q. In the past, we’ve extended additional benefits to our employees who were National Guard members called up for active duty. Although we’re not going to eliminate that practice entirely, we do want to reduce those additional benefits. Is there any problem with doing so? —L..S.

How to handle discipline for pregnant employees

02/01/2007

Q. We have an employee who was on probation when she became pregnant. What can we do if she continues to have performance problems? —J.J.

Texas law on background checks for minors

02/01/2007

Q. We do background checks on all applicants. I know the Fair Credit Reporting Act says we have to get the applicant’s permission. We hire some employees under age 18. Is there anything special we need to do? —A.G.

Should we keep copies of I-9 documentation?

02/01/2007

Q. My boss is concerned about the increased penalties against employers who hire illegal aliens. He wants to be sure our procedures are in keeping with the best practices. One question I have: What do we do with the documents that new employees present to comply with the I-9 requirements? Should we keep copies of them? And, if so, where? —G.S.

No policy? Punish moonlighter anyway

02/01/2007

Q. We just discovered that an employee we hired two months ago is working for another company, too. He is a salaried employee and hardly ever in the office. Is there anything we can do? Is it too late to add a no-moonlighting policy to our handbook? —K.T., California

Deducting leave for partial-day absences

02/01/2007

Q. Recently, we audited our jobs and determined that some employees were classified as hourly when they should be exempt. We reclassified them. But now, I have a question about handling time off for our newly exempt employees. By law, are we required to NOT charge an exempt person’s time if they’re out of the office for a half day? And if we do start charging an exempt person’s time (vacation or personal) if they miss an hour or two, are we setting ourselves up to be sued?

What are the costs for age-Discrimination sins?

02/01/2007

Q. If we’re sued for age discrimination, is the potential award limited to lost wages and benefits? Or can a court also award damages like pain and suffering? —D.B., Nebraska

Can we require salaried staff to make up lost time?

02/01/2007

Q. We’re a small company (fewer than 20 employees) and don’t keep time sheets. Our entire staff is salaried. We expect employees to make up personal time and sick time (neither of which affects their vacation time or holiday time). Are we wrong to expect that if a salaried employee takes two hours for a doctor’s appointment, he or she should make up that time later? —M.V., Florida

Traffic tardiness: Be consistent with punishments

02/01/2007

Q. How many times should we allow an employee to be late before giving an oral warning? We have a mandatory 8:30 a.m. production meeting. Everyone knows traffic is out of control, but most employees manage to arrive on time most of the time. Some are consistently late and constantly blame traffic. —J.A., California

Accept FMLA proof from foreign doctors

01/01/2007

Q. Many of my employees request FMLA leave to return to their native countries to care for sick relatives, or they request personal medical leave due to a “sudden illness” that occurs while visiting those countries. In some cases, these countries don’t have regulated physicians. Documents can be easily obtained from any street vendor. Are U.S. employers required to accept these documents? —L.W.

Can you convert all employees to nonexempt?

01/01/2007

Q. For years, we’ve always had salaried employees. But we have many employees who always come in late and leave early. This is hard to track. We are thinking of making them hourly employees and getting a time clock. If I make them all hourly employees, I know that I have to pay overtime, but it might be worth it. Can I legally change their status from exempt to hourly, or are some employees required to be salaried? —B.B., New York

Do holidays count toward FMLA leave?

01/01/2007

Q. Are holidays that fall within the scheduled FMLA leave counted as leave? —L.F., Washington

Offering health coverage only to select employees

01/01/2007

Q. We currently provide health insurance for 20 employees who work full time (40 hours per week all year). We have some clerical staff who work less than 40 hours per week and aren’t eligible for insurance. We also have professional tax preparers who work many hours during tax season, but only 10 to 20 hours the rest of the year. Can we legally add just the tax preparers to our health insurance and not the clerical staff? —R.M., Pennsylvania

Moonlighting policy: What's the best language?

01/01/2007

Q. We are a not-for-profit agency working with developmentally disabled clients. Some of our therapists moonlight with private patients. Should we allow this? If not, how would we word a policy statement forbidding it? —B.B., Maryland

Can you require workers to join the health plan?

01/01/2007

Q. Can we require employees to be on our health insurance plan? We’re a small business and to meet the requirements for group insurance, we require all employees that aren’t covered by a spouse’s policy to enroll. We pay 75 percent of the premium. —G.P., Oklahoma