Q&A

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

Don't complicate the paycheck pickup process

01/01/2006

Q. Once a year, we have employees show a picture ID and provide a signature that allows them to authorize someone else to pick up their paycheck for them. If an employee doesn’t provide ID and a signature, we will mail the check or hold it until he or she personally picks it up. Is this legal? —J.I., Washington, D.C.

Understand links between FMLA and workers' comp

01/01/2006

Q. If an employee is out on workers’ comp due to a work-related injury that requires surgery, can we also force him to use FMLA days in conjunction with that workers’ comp leave? The workers’ comp carrier is paying the employee’s reduced wages. —B.F., Pennsylvania

Employees' right to view personnel file is a state issue

01/01/2006

Q. I support the concept of permitting employees to view their personnel files upon request, but I want to know if any law or regulation requires us to provide access. If so, where can I find out about this law/regulation? I’ve been unable to find the rule, and I’m beginning to suspect that we’ve passed this “law” around so long in HR that we believe it exists. –R.C., Alabama

Should You Give FMLA Form to 'Ineligible' Employee?

01/01/2006

Q. An employee who’s been employed since May is out on workers’ comp and will be for a while. Do I send her FMLA paperwork even though she hasn’t met the criteria of being employed for at least a year? It’s my understanding that I should send it to everyone that requests leave, and only after they return the paperwork should I determine if the person is, in fact, eligible. —L.P., California

Know the 'Cooling Off' Period for Age-Bias Waivers

01/01/2006

Q. Can you tell me if there’s a law that says a 45-day waiting period must exist from the time employees are told they’ll be laid off until they receive the severance payment? Supposedly, this is called a cooling-off period. Is this a federal law? —T.M., Pennsylvania

Obtain OK to share background-Check info with clients

12/01/2005

Q. Our company routinely runs background checks on all people to whom we offer positions. Can we legally disclose an employee’s background information to a customer who requests it? (The employee is working on the customer’s job site.) —L.B., North Carolina

Hiring relatives is legal, but keep them separated

12/01/2005

Q. Are there any legal restrictions on whether we can interview and hire a relative of one of our current employees? —J.D., North Carolina