Q&A

Do we need to accommodate smokers?

03/11/2015
Q. We currently have a designated smoking area outside our building. Recently, an employee who is extremely sensitive to certain odors complained that smoke was drifting through our ventilation system into her work space. May we prohibit smoking in certain areas outside our building? If so, do we need to provide another location for our employees to smoke?

What's the law on how often to pay?

03/10/2015
Q. As a new small business owner, I am unsure of the laws governing wage payment. Are there rules concerning how often I must pay my employees?

Are employees allowed to picket my business?

03/10/2015
Q. A supervisor recently told me that some of my employees are planning to picket outside one of my businesses. Apparently, the picketers plan to block the building’s two exits with their vehicles in addition to picketing. Is this lawful?

Can I refuse to hire union members?

03/10/2015
Q. I am considering hiring an applicant to work at my steel refinery. The only problem is that he is affiliated with a local trade union, and I am doing everything I can to keep my business union-free. Can I refuse to hire him for this reason?

Is it double-dipping to receive both workers' comp and Social Security benefits?

03/03/2015
Q. Can an injured worker obtain both workers’ compensation benefits and Social Security disability benefits at the same time?

Can missed quotas add up to docked pay?

03/03/2015
Q. Can an employee’s pay be docked for failing to meet a production quota?

What is the most effective way of keeping a former employee from giving away trade secrets?

03/03/2015
Q. As an employer, what can I do to avoid unauthorized disclosure of sensitive company information when an employee departs?

Can repeated, petty complaints to HR be considered some form of harassment?

03/03/2015
Q. A more senior employee was recently passed over for a promotion because a newer employee is clearly more qualified. Now that this person is their boss, the more senior employee has filed several petty complaints against her. Although we are aware that these complaints are completely invalid, we in HR have to take it seriously. But it is a shame for the new supervisor to have the complaints piling up in her file. Is this considered harassment?

What's the current mileage reimbursement rate?

02/24/2015
Q. Some of my construction employees must drive their personal cars to and from various work sites during work hours. Am I required to reimburse these employees for the miles they drive during this travel? If so, what is the amount per mile?

Can we make employees pay for new uniforms?

02/18/2015
Q. We had to provide an employee with a replacement uniform shirt after he lost the one we gave him when he was hired. Can we require him to pay for this replacement by taking it out of his pay?

Must we provide a place where our customers can pray?

02/18/2015
Q. A customer was in our sales showroom in the process of purchasing merchandise when he asked his sales person to provide him with space where he could pray while the sales person finalized the paperwork. Our sales person was surprised by the request but ended up providing the customer with an empty office. Do we need to accommodate a similar request in the future? We would, of course, accommodate a prayer request from one of our employees. But we have concerns with leaving a customer unattended in our office area.

When new employee quits, can we deduct vacation time she took but never earned?

02/18/2015
Q. We permit our employees to take two weeks of advanced vacation before accruing vacation hours. When an employee takes advanced vacation, we typically reduce the employee’s negative vacation balance as the employee later accrues vacation. Unfor­­tu­­nately, we recently had an employee quit before accruing sufficient vacation time to correct her outstanding balance. May we deduct the negative balance from her final paycheck?

Where in Texas do 'ban the box' laws apply?

02/10/2015
Q. I have been hearing a lot about “ban the box” laws lately—measures that limit when inquiry or investigation may be made into the criminal history of a job applicant. I am worried about how these laws could affect my business. To what extent has Texas adopted such policies, and could they endanger my company?

Can we require owner-employees of a business we're buying to sign noncompete agreements?

02/10/2015
Q. My company is in the process of purchasing a small printing business, and we plan to retain several of the owner-employees of the acquired business. As a part of the purchase-and-sale agreement, we would like to take steps to protect our customer base by restricting the competitive activities of the owner-employees for five years. Additionally, we are interested in restricting the activities of an employee who is not a party to the transaction, but is married to one of the owners of the business. May we do so? What are some basics about noncompete agreements?

Can we collect insurance premiums from employee who was out on FMLA leave?

02/02/2015
Q. One of our employees recently returned from FMLA leave. Before he left, the method in which he would pay his share of health insurance premiums was never decided. It’s been two months now and the employee hasn’t mentioned it or attempted to pay us back. What can we do to collect the premium?
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