Q&A

New I-9, W-4 needed when employee changes name?

05/01/2006

Q. When employees get married, do we need new W-4s to show the new name? And do we need new I-9s (which, I assume, would require supporting documentation in the new name)? — M.G., Washington

Part of Sarbanes-Oxley law applies to all employers

05/01/2006

Q. I work for a nonprofit social service organization. Do such organizations have to comply with SOX rules? —J.M., New Jersey

Can you search employee lockers, purses, desks?

05/01/2006

Q. Can we open an employee’s personal things, like her locker, purse or desk drawer, if we suspect her of stealing? —A.G., Connecticut

How Long to Tolerate a 'Disappearing' Employee?

05/01/2006

Q. We’re a small business with eight employees. One employee frequently takes off for six to eight weeks with medical problems. She’s done this each year for the past three years. It’s a huge burden because very few people have her training, so we can’t hire a temp. How long do we have to allow her to disappear for months at a time? —M.S., Ohio

Solving the Case of the 'Stinky Staffer'

04/01/2006

Q. We have a “stinky employee” problem. How do I go about telling this person that she has a horrible smell and it's now affecting some of my other staff? —S.H., Washington

Accruing sick leave during workers' comp leave

04/01/2006

Q. One of our employees is out on workers’ comp. Our contract says “no sick time will be lost or deducted” while employees are out on workers’ comp. But now he wants to know if he continues to accrue sick time and holiday pay while not working. Does he? —J.S., Michigan

No need to announce reasons for firing

04/01/2006

Q. We fired a part-time employee for stealing a gift card out of the trash. We have a policy against taking anything of value out of the garbage. The next day, his supervisor announced to everyone that the employee had been fired for theft. I don’t think it was appropriate to tell others the reason. Was it? And what should we say if someone calls for a reference? —A.L., Arkansas

You're not required to print handbook in Spanish

04/01/2006

Q. If an employee speaks Spanish and doesn’t understand English, am I required to have my handbooks and other policies translated into Spanish? Is the handbook valid if the employee signs but does not understand the content? —A.B., California

Don't require staff to give emergency contact info

03/01/2006

Q. We’re cleaning up our personnel files and updating emergency contact information. Some employees don’t want to provide their contact information. Is it legal for us to require them to give it to us? —S.S., California

Cutting hours is legal, but anticipate bias claims

03/01/2006

Q. Can we legally reduce the hours of full-time employees in one of our divisions because this division needs to cut overhead? —J.B., Massachusetts

Who pays the tax on gift cards given to employees?

03/01/2006

Q. We plan to give gasoline gift cards to employees as incentives for picking up additional shifts. Are these cards taxable? Can we, the employer, simply pay the employee’s portion of the taxes? —T.M., Pennsylvania

Be wary of disciplining for false complaints

03/01/2006

Q. We have an employee who has filed several sexual harassment complaints. But when we investigate, they turn out to be false. Can we do something about her? —J.P., Oklahoma

Can you deduct overtime from bank of FMLA hours?

03/01/2006

Q. Can an employer deduct or count overtime hours from an employee’s FMLA balance? Our employees work overtime only from October through December. During that time, they’re required to work 12-hour days, seven days a week. We have several employees on both continuous FMLA and intermittent leave, and we’d like to deduct the overtime hours they would have worked from their FMLA allotment. What do you think? —J.A., Nebraska

State law decides if workers can see personnel file

02/01/2006

Q. Are we required to let terminated employees come in and view their actual personnel files, or can we copy the information and send it via mail? One of our fired employees has hired an attorney and wants to see her file. —T.M. California

You can remove injured worker for safety reasons

02/01/2006

Q. An employee told us he has a bad hernia. He wants to wait a couple months to have the operation, since it requires six weeks’ recovery. He does some lifting in his job. Yesterday, he had to go home early because he was in pain. Now that we are aware of his condition, what’s our liability? And what should we do? —D.C., New Jersey