Q&A

Cite Return-to-Work Tests in Drug/Alcohol Policy

03/01/2005

Q. One of our employees was recently in jail for traffic and drug violations. Before he returns to work, what guidelines can we follow to ensure that he's drug-free? Will we be discriminating if we require a drug test before allowing him back on site, even though we didn't require this test when he was hired? —M.Z., Washington

FMLA for Over-18 Relative Hinges on Self-Care Ability

03/01/2005

Q. Would FMLA leave apply to an employee who requests leave time to care for her daughter who is over age 21 and married? The daughter's illness required hospitalization, but her husband is overseas on active duty with the military. —D.S., Georgia

Request birth date only after conditional job offer

03/01/2005

Q. We don't ask applicants for their age or birth date on our application. But we plan to start conducting background checks on applicants whom we're seriously considering. The company that will conduct the checks for us said the birth date is on all the applications they see and that it's instrumental to conducting the checks. What should we do? —V.T., Wyoming

You can exclude vacation pay from 'Regular rate'

03/01/2005

Q. When we are figuring employees' base pay for overtime calculations, can we exclude their vacation pay? —R.J.D., South Dakota

Keep rejected applications for three years

02/01/2005

Q. I read in your publication that if an applicant isn't hired, we should retain the application for at least three years. I've heard elsewhere that applications should be kept for only one year beyond the date the position is filled. Have the rules changed? —S.C., Washington

You can set weekly vacation rule, but should you?

02/01/2005

Q. I know we're allowed to tell employees which months they can't take vacations, but can we also require that vacations be taken only by the week, and not in daily, hourly or half-day increments? —P.A., Nebraska

Check state law before deducting cost of lost tools

02/01/2005

Q. We want to start a policy that would deduct the cost of tools from employees' final paychecks if the tools aren't returned or if they're returned damaged. Can we legally do this? —M.P., Kansas

Travel Time Is 'Work Time' if It Cuts Across Workday

02/01/2005

Q. We hired a new branch manager in a one-person office in another town. Because she earns $19,240 a year, she doesn't meet the new annual threshold of $23,660 for exempt status, correct? Several times a year, she escorts trips involving overnight stays. While she's out, she forwards her calls to the host office and closes her doors. How do we compensate her? Am I right that she has to be considered "hourly"? And how do we compensate for the overnight and travel time? —K.H., Kansas

Don't offer comp time to nonexempt employees

01/01/2005

Q. Can we offer our nonexempt employees comp time instead of overtime pay during a pay period? If we can, do we have to offer it at one and a half times, just like overtime is paid? For example, if an employee works one hour of overtime, do we have to give him one and a half hours of comp time? —J.C., Ohio

I-9s: Online or on paper?

01/01/2005

Q. Congress just gave employers the OK to maintain I-9 records electronically. I do payroll for a church. How can we make the switch from paper to electronic? —D.K., Arkansas

Workers' comp leave doesn't stop 'FMLA clock'

01/01/2005

Q. An employee took FMLA leave Sept. 1 due to job stress. In October, she had an operation for carpal tunnel syndrome. Workers' comp ruled that her absence was work-related and it dated her workers' comp claim back to Sept. 3. So, they're now saying that her FMLA leave won't start until she is officially released from workers' comp. Do we need to keep a job open for her indefinitely? —F.W., Nevada

All staff on payroll count toward FMLA threshold

01/01/2005

Q. We're a church with six full-time employees, three part-timers and six musicians who are paid per performance. Are we subject to FMLA? And who counts as an “employee” under the law: full-time, part-time and on-call workers, such as our musicians? —E.E., North Carolina

No need to give notice of demotion or pay cut

12/01/2004

Q. We're planning to demote an employee for performance reasons. He'd move from a supervisory job (salaried/exempt) to an hourly job, so we'd cut his pay by about $10,000 a year. What kind of notice must we give him regarding the pay cut and exemption status? —L.K., Missouri

Govt. Rarely Requires In-House 'Sick Area'

12/01/2004

Q. Is our company required to provide a couch or cot on the premises in the event that an employee becomes ill? Are there any laws that dictate safety or health reasons for doing this? —V.A., Ohio

All-Electronic HR Files? Your Call if State Law Agrees

12/01/2004

Q. You recently said that I-9 forms can now be stored electronically. To save on office space and filing time, our department is considering scanning and electronically filing all personnel files and documents. Is this OK? —S.S., California