Q&A

What's not covered by workers' comp?

10/07/2014
Q. As a Texas employer, what types of workplace injuries are excepted from my workers’ compensation insurance coverage?

Is an employee entitled to take FMLA leave to care for her hospitalized adult child?

09/26/2014
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.

Can we--should we--try to accommodate employee's traffic anxiety?

09/26/2014

Q. One of our employees claims that traffic gives her anxiety and wants to alter her work schedule to avoid driving during peak travel times. It wouldn’t be a big deal but we’re afraid that if we do it for her, we will start to receive similar claims from other workers who have similar commutes. Do we have to accommodate her?

When is telecommuting a reasonable accommodation under the ADA and state law?

09/19/2014
Q. One of my employees was recently injured in a nonwork-related accident. If this employee returns to work and requires an accommodation to perform his duties, can allowing him to telecommute be considered reasonable accommodation?

How honest can I be when called for a reference on a subpar former employee?

09/19/2014
Q. I recently fired one of my employees, but today another company called me, stating that the former employee marked me down on a job application as an employment reference. Can I tell the prospective em­­ployer about how terrible an employee this person was?

Is it OK to have a blanket policy of rejecting applicants with criminal histories?

09/19/2014
Q. I believe I should be able to refuse employment to any prospective employee with a record of criminal conviction. Can I institute a blanket policy that bars employment to applicants with criminal records? Also, what can I ask applicants about their criminal records?

How do we rein in our staff on social media?

09/19/2014
Q. What are the rules and laws about social media? We have employees who have generated Facebook pages with our company name. They are also posting information that we are not ready to publish—such as the opening of another store in a new city.

Hiring laws in Canada: Where do we start?

09/18/2014
Q. We’re considering hiring a woman from Canada to sell our products in Canada. We have no idea how to start the process of hiring a foreign worker. Suggestions?

Can a former employee demand access to her personnel file?

09/17/2014
Q. A former employee called HR asking to review her personnel file. We already let her review her file following termination last year, and nothing has changed in the personnel file since she reviewed it. Can we just tell the former employee “No”? Or can we ask her to pay for a copy of the file for her own records? Our HR manager is going on vacation next week. Can we wait to deal with the former employee’s request until after the human resources manager gets back from vacation?

How frank can we be with references?

09/17/2014
Q. We recently received a reference request from another company. We would like to be honest with the potential employer about the former employee’s performance issues. The employee was unreliable, did not get along with co-workers, and was always complaining to his supervisor about our business practices without any basis. Are there risks to being honest and giving the employee a bad reference?

Must we have a smoking section onsite?

09/16/2014
Q. Our smoking area is outside our building, but the smoke seems to be drifting into the ventilation system. An employee who is super-sensitive to smells has complained. Can we move smokers to their vehicles? Do we even need to provide a place for smokers onsite?

Drug tests: What to do about 'watered down' results?

09/12/2014
Q. We have a couple of workers who keep getting “negative dilute” results of drug tests. Our policy is to not accept the result and to retest. Can we require the retest to be an observed collection?

Does independent contractor status affect unemployment benefits for temps?

09/02/2014
Q. We’re aware of the unemployment comp responsibilities that come with being the last employer on record, so we require that all seasonal temps sign a policy that clearly states when their employment with us will end. If temps are hired with 1099 status, will our company still be responsible as the last employer on record and held liable for unemployment benefits? If we use a temp agency, are we liable?

How should we handle wage overpayment?

09/02/2014
Q. We recently overpaid an employee by $3,500 but the discrepancy was not discovered until six months later. Can we automatically and legitimately withhold those wages from his paycheck? Also, would it be inappropriate to dock additional wages for the employee not making us aware of the mistake?

If a new employee leaves in short order, is there a way to recoup training costs?

09/02/2014
Q. Can we require employees to repay the company (through payroll deduction) for training costs if they quit or are fired within one year?
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