Q&A

Review past practices to judge FMLA leave request

10/01/2004

Q. We're a 24/7 office. Some employees rotate shifts, but our night employees typically work the same shift. After one of our employees gave birth, she asked to be placed on the night shift. We granted her request, but now she says medical reasons require her to be off for five days in a row. We put her back into the regular shift rotation, but she claims her FMLA rights are being violated and wants all employees to rotate shifts, even the night employees. Do we have to do this? —M.L., Ohio

No Need to Pay Employee for Home-to-Seminar Drive

10/01/2004

Q. In determining when to pay for travel time, what if an employee drives his own car to a seminar that's two hours away? Should he get paid for his driving time to and from the seminar, even if he leaves from home and drives straight home afterward? —R.M., North Carolina

Obtain applicant's approval before calling previous boss

09/01/2004

Q. I'd like to contact an applicant's former employer, but that employer wasn't included in the applicant's reference list. Can I call the employer anyway? —A.T., Wyoming

Investigate harassment, even if victim is hesitant

09/01/2004

Q. We're afraid that one of our employees may have been subjected to discriminatory behavior. But she hasn't filed a complaint. What should we do? Do we have an obligation to bring it up and investigate even if she declines? —S.P., Louisiana

Include cash rewards in employees' taxable income

09/01/2004

Q. When we win contracts, we recognize employees with cash awards. But these awards may be given to only the select few employees involved. Is this legally OK? —G.J., Alabama

Accommodate group prayer if it won't cause 'Hardship'

09/01/2004

Q. A group of our employees met during their break to have group prayer. A supervisor complained to our president, who instructed that we should notify employees that they can't pray on break time. Nor can they pray during lunch unless they leave the building. Some employees are upset. Is this policy legal? —M.S., California

Resignation Notice Policy May Not Be Enforceable

08/01/2004

Q. Is it legal to require management employees to give us a longer resignation period than other employees? —M.L., Missouri

ADA doesn't give employee freedom to redefine his job

08/01/2004

Q. One of our employees has been out on disability leave for almost 16 months. He says he wants to return to work, but only if we give him a supervisory position without a lot of strenuous activity. We have no such position available. We've offered him other positions, but he's refused them all. Can we legally terminate him? —L.B., North Carolina

Are departed employees eligible for bonuses?

08/01/2004

Q. Our company pays out bonuses in the year after the work is completed, sometimes late into the first quarter. If an employee resigns prior to the bonus payout date (say in January), do we have to pay that employee the bonus? —A.G., South Carolina

Courts Differ on Half-Day Deduction Rules

08/01/2004

Q. You've said that a company can't deduct a half-day for an exempt employee who has used all her sick and vacation time; it must be in full-day increments. But what if the employee hasn't used all her banked sick and vacation time? Could an employer require the employee to use that instead? —S.V., North Carolina

Exemption Class Doesn't Matter for Part-Timer

08/01/2004

Q. Does the new salary threshold of $455 a week (under which employees are automatically eligible for overtime) hold true even if the person works part time, say one or two days a week? We have employees who meet the professional exemption, but they work part time and wouldn't reach the $455 threshold. —L.S., Pennsylvania

Rethink exemption status of traveling sales rep

07/01/2004

Q. We employ sales and service reps who travel and service stores around the country. They work from their home offices, use their own cars and communicate with us via phone. We classify them as exempt. Is this correct? (Most reps are required to spend at least eight hours at each location. Some drive three hours or longer to get to each store. We encourage overnight stays under these circumstances.) —L.C., Oklahoma

Don't pay for rest breaks beyond 20 minutes

07/01/2004

Q. Is it mandatory for a nonexempt employee to take at least a 20-minute meal break after working a certain number of hours? —M.M., Illinois

Choose bonus pay method and stick with it

07/01/2004

Q. Our company pays monthly bonuses to hourly employees based on the previous month's performance. When calculating overtime, should the bonus pay be included only for the weekly payroll that contains those bonuses, or does it change the overtime rate for other weekly pay periods, as well? —A.A., Tennessee

Get tough with habitually absent employees

07/01/2004

Q. We have a new administrative employee in our pediatric office who missed 22 days of work in her first nine weeks. She has doctor excuses for illnesses for most of the days, but my front office is in shambles. Can I put her on written warning for excessive absences? Can I terminate her? —C.F., Georgia