Q&A

More clarity on the partial-Day deduction rule

04/01/2007

Q. I have a question about deducting leave for salaried staff. I don’t understand how we can deduct from employees’ paid-leave bank when they are gone for an hour or two during the day, when we don’t pay them anything extra when they work 50 hours in a week. For example, if an employee works 10-hour days on a regular basis, is it OK to charge her vacation time when she leaves an hour or two early? — J.H., Minnesota

Are certain industries exempt from the FMLA?

04/01/2007

Q. I’ve heard that not all industries are covered by the FMLA. Are trucking companies exempt? If so, we have several employees out on workers’ compensation and FMLA leave. Can we fire them? —T.Z., New York

Obtain approval to give out employees' info

04/01/2007

Q. I've just joined a new company, and our HR people give out employees' information (wage data, demographic info, etc.) to anyone who calls to request it. Is that right? —P.L., Virginia

Workers fail to give FMLA proof? Cut 'Em loose

04/01/2007

Q. One of our employees had been out sick for two months. We’ve received a doctor’s note that just says he’s unable to work and that a return date is undetermined. We faxed and mailed FMLA paperwork, but it hasn’t been returned. Meanwhile, the employee is receiving disability benefits through our short-term disability plan. How do we calculate the start of FMLA leave? From the date the disability payment began? And if we never get the FMLA paperwork back, can we terminate him? —T.B., Tennessee

Clarifying the partial-Day deduction rule

04/01/2007

Q. I have a question about the partial-day deduction rule. I don’t understand how we can deduct from salaried employees’ paid-leave bank when they are gone for an hour or two during the day since we don’t pay them anything extra when they work 50 hours in a week. For example, if an employee works 10-hour days on a regular basis, is it OK to charge her vacation time when she leaves an hour or two early? —J.H., Minnesota

After merger, must we hire worker who's on FMLA?

04/01/2007

Q. We bought a company and agreed to consider hiring the seller’s employees. We interviewed and hired some of them. One of the employees was out on FMLA leave and is telling us that we have to hire him. We looked at his work record and we would never hire him. Do we have a potential problem? —R.L.B.

Can we offer wage hike to head off union campaign?

04/01/2007

Q. We are a nonunion company and obviously would like to stay that way. We gave a very modest wage increase six months ago, and we just learned that another company in the same industrial park got hit with a union organizing campaign. I think we should be proactive. Normally we review wages every 12 months, but I want to recommend to my management team that we break that cycle and do a wage increase now. Can we get in any trouble by going ahead with a wage increase now, even though it’s not in keeping with our regular practice? —C.O.

Quick fix can help avoid harassment liability

04/01/2007

Q. One of our male supervisors fired what we in HR thought was a poor-performing female employee. During the exit interview, the terminated employee told us that her supervisor fired her because he was sexually harassing her and she threatened to report him if it didn’t stop. It turned out that her claim was legitimate. We immediately called her back to work.

We thought we had dodged a bullet but, unfortunately, we’ve been contacted by her attorney, who threatened a lawsuit unless we agree to settle her claim for a lot of money. We will contact an attorney to represent us, but we want to know if the fact that we brought her right back to work is going to make a difference? —L.W.

Asking applicants about age: When is it legal?

03/01/2007

Q. I work as an HR generalist at a large hospital. My supervisor told me to ask a certain applicant for her date of birth during the hiring process. Isn’t it illegal to ask for an applicant’s birth date? —K.G., Philadelphia

Can we require medical tests or treatment?

03/01/2007

Q. I’m confused about when we can require physical exams or treatment. We now make employees undergo a fitness-for-duty exam when we think there is a physical or psychological reason that impairs the employee’s ability to perform the job. We also use last-chance agreements requiring medical treatment for an employee to earn reinstatement after a discharge, such as for alcohol or drug abuse. Are we courting trouble? —D.J., Michigan

Liability for injuries suffered on break

03/01/2007

Q. We let employees take short breaks to smoke outside or even have a chiropractic adjustment at the clinic next door. Employees are on the clock. Could we be responsible for their health problems related to smoking or injury from spinal adjustments? Should we just require paid breaks be taken indoors? —H.R., Missouri

Giving references: Limiting info is still safest policy

03/01/2007

Q. I’m new to the HR world. When we receive reference checks on ex-employees, what information can we (or should we) give out without a signed release? —L.M., Pasadena, Calif.

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.