Q&A

Must we pay employees for unauthorized overtime when they check their messages?

08/18/2014
Q. We frequently have employees turn in time sheets with unapproved overtime—time they spend checking emails and voice mails. Do we have to pay em­­­­ployees for this time even though we have a workplace policy that prohibits unapproved overtime work?

Are we liable for male-female pay disparities?

07/31/2014
Q. The company that I own has been in business since 1930. We recently performed an assessment of positions and salaries and discovered that our male executives are paid higher salaries than female counterparts. Are we liable for any unfair business practices?

How far can I go to ban guns at work?

07/31/2014
Q. As the owner of a Texas company, I want to institute a policy that strictly forbids employees from bringing guns to work—both into the office building and in the parking lot outside. Can I legally draft such a policy?

What employee thresholds trigger need for notification of plant closings?

07/31/2014
Q. I am the owner of several industrial facilities, but recent financial crises have forced me to have to shut down two of these plants. These closings and subsequent layoffs will affect about 600 employees. Am I re­­quired to notify the employees before laying them off?

Can we limit our applicant pool to U.S. citizens?

07/29/2014
Q. Is it legal to hire only U.S. citizens and, when advertising, say that people must be citizens to apply?

Can sick leave hours count toward overtime?

07/25/2014
Q. Last week, one of our hourly employees was out sick on Monday, but she worked a total of 40 hours from Tuesday through Friday. She would like to use her sick leave from Monday and claim overtime for those Monday sick-day hours. Must I pay her overtime for her Monday hours?

Am I allowed to search a worker's backpack?

07/23/2014
Q. One of my workers brought a backpack into work today that I have reason to believe contains illegal substances. The worker stored the bag in his company-provided locker. Can I search his belongings?

OK to fire for Facebook complaint about work?

07/23/2014
Q. One of my employees recently made a post on Face­­book expressing his dissatisfaction with his job. In the post, he talked about being paid too little for the amount of work he performs, and that the whole office needs renovating, claiming, “rats don’t even want to work there.” Can I fire him for this, or at least discipline him?

Must we grant time off so employees can vote?

07/23/2014
Q. A number of my employees have stated that they will not be able to vote in the upcoming statewide election because their local polling centers are only open during these employees’ work hours. Should I give them some time off during the day to vote?

Can we ban employee appointments during work?

07/18/2014
Q. I have an employee who is constantly scheduling appointments during work hours and having to leave. In the past two weeks alone, she missed 27 hours due to appointments. If we cannot restrict appointments outside of work, can I require documentation of appointments?

Telecommuting a reasonable accommodation?

07/15/2014
Q. We have an employee with a disability who has requested to work from home part time as an accommodation for her disability. Are we required to grant this request?

Separation agreements: Use arbitration agreements instead of claims releases?

07/15/2014
Q. We have seen that some companies are requiring their employees to agree to arbitration rather than a release of claims in their separation agreements. Is this an alternative worth exploring?

How should we manage family leave that isn't covered by the FMLA?

07/15/2014
Q. We hired an employee just a few months ago, so he does not qualify for leave under the FMLA. He has requested intermittent time off to care for a family member. We would like to allow him to take the time off, but we aren’t sure how to handle the situation outside of the FMLA. What is your advice?

Can I prohibit employees from all smoking?

07/07/2014
Q. I despise cigarette smoking, and I want to restrict my employees from smoking as much as possible. To what extent can I do so?

What's our risk of a sexual harassment suit?

07/07/2014
Q. The vice president of my company, whom I appointed, is really a nice guy, but he has propositioned many of the female employees on multiple occasions for sexual acts in his office. He has a great attitude towards the female employees who agree, but those who refuse have been recently discharged without my consent. Is this sexual harassment?
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