Q&A

Can I make across-the-board pay deductions because one of my employees is stealing?

11/12/2015
Q. I believe at least one of my employees is stealing from the cash register, but I can’t prove which one. I’d like to deduct the register shortfalls from all of the employees. Can I force them to reimburse the company for the register shortfalls?

Must I pay employees for weekend training?

11/12/2015
Q. I have arranged for my nonexempt hourly employees to attend a training session on a weekend, outside of their normal work hours. Must I pay them regular and/or overtime wages for their attendance?

Is nicotine addiction a disability?

11/12/2015
Q. An employee says she must be allowed to take smoke breaks. She claims she is so addicted to nicotine that she has a disability, and that therefore I must accommodate her requirements. If I don’t allow her to take smoke breaks, can she sue me?

Was this employee eligible for FMLA leave?

10/28/2015
Q. We’ve received a demand letter from an attorney alleging that we violated the FMLA by failing to reinstate an employee as required by the law. The letter refers to our handbook, which the employee received, which contains our FMLA policy. It states that when the employee applied for leave, he applied for “FMLA leave.” We have several hundred employees, but the site where this employee worked has only 30 employees, and it is not located within 75 miles of any of our other sites. Therefore, it is my understanding that this employee is not eligible for FMLA benefits and the employee should not have a FMLA claim to assert. Is that correct?

How do we go about verifying I-9 documents for remote employees?

10/28/2015
Q. We have a workforce that largely works remotely, some hundreds of miles from our corporate office. For a variety of reasons, we will be reclassifying a number of these individuals from independent contractor status to employees. Given that we will need I-9s for the employees, do we need to personally see the required identification documents, or can the employees send us facsimiles/scans, etc.? If we need to see the forms personally, what is the best way to do that?

Are computer programmers exempt from overtime in California?

10/22/2015
Q. Our company needs to hire computer programmers to create, maintain, and update internal software, and to develop apps to give to our clients. I have heard about a “computer workers” exception from overtime. What exactly is the exception and can I apply it to my computer programmers?

How to comply with L.A.'s new minimum wage?

10/22/2015
Q. My company is headquartered in San Francisco, but I have several employees throughout California, including in Los Angeles. What are my obligations with regard to the new Los Angeles minimum wage ordinance?

How to handle a reference request from a subpar former employee?

10/22/2015
Q. A former employee asked me to provide a reference to a prospective employer. While he left our company on good terms, he had lateness problems, his performance was substandard, and I was not fond of him. Can he sue me for giving him a bad reference?

Can we discipline for bad behavior at party?

10/15/2015
Q. At our company holiday party, which was not at the workplace or during work hours, an employee told some inappropriate jokes and put an arm around a co-worker who did not appreciate it and complained. The company is aware that the employee took a leave of absence for treatment of chemical dependency and is concerned that the employee might have been drinking at the party. Can the company discipline the employee? The company would like the employee to get additional help for chemical dependency.

Do help desk staffers qualify for the FLSA's computer professional exemption?

10/13/2015
Q. My company is switching to a new technology platform that will require many hours’ worth of IT support at the help desk level. The job must be done quickly, but we don’t have the resources to hire new staff. I’ve heard “computer people” are exempt from overtime requirements. Is that true?

How should I handle a reference request from a former employee who was less than stellar?

10/05/2015
Q. A former employee asked me to provide a reference to his new prospective employer. While he left the company on good terms, he had lateness problems, his performance was substandard and I was not fond of him. Am I required to act as his reference? Can he sue me for giving him a bad reference?

Am I allowed to institute a tip pool?

10/05/2015
Q. I manage a popular sports bar. May I institute a tip-pooling policy?

Is it OK to dock a nonexempt's salary if the hours just aren't put in?

10/05/2015
Q: “We have a nonexempt salaried employee who is required to work 40 hours a week. She rarely works overtime, but when she does she gets 1.5 times her hourly rate. My question is, if she works less than 40 hours in a week, does not have any PTO left and does not make the time up, can we dock her salary?” – Maria, West Virginia

How can we prevent a workers' comp claim from an older, accident-prone employee?

09/30/2015
Q. One of our employees is over age 70 and has had a broken foot, memory problems and a recent car wreck that caused some residual problems. Should we allow him to work? What can we do to protect ourselves from potential workers’ comp claims should he injure himself?

Can we charge administrative fees when employees create a burden on payroll?

09/28/2015
Q: “Can the company legally assess an administrative fee to employees who have been issued a corporate credit card and have been told in writing that the card is to be used for business purposes only, yet continue using it for personal purposes? It means the accounting department must adjust their regular paycheck to deduct the monies used for personal expenses.” – MK, Oklahoma
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