Q&A

Are there any occasions when it would be appropriate to ask about applicant's religion?

12/01/2015
Q. When, if ever, can our company legally ask an applicant about his or her religious affiliation?

Is it OK to impose a salary cap?

12/01/2015
Q. Many of our employees have reached the top of the current pay scale. We just instituted a salary cap. The only employees affected are those with many years of service and are well into their 50s and beyond. Some of the affected employees are angry and say this is age discrimination.

We think an employee is stealing money; can we deduct it from her wages?

11/24/2015
Q. I have noticed that a lot of inventory is leaving the store, but the money for some items is not in the cash register. I believe one of my employees is stealing money from the cash register. Can I deduct the cash shortfall from his wages?

Calling boss 'Scrooge' online: Protected?

11/13/2015

Q. An employee brought to the attention of his supervisor that a co-worker had posted a comment on social media saying that her supervisor is Scrooge, that the supervisor is probably planning to fire a bunch of people right before the holidays, and that everyone should complain about her unfair behavior so that the supervisor is the one who will get fired. The company has a social media policy that prohibits making disparaging comments about it or its employees. Can the company discipline the posting co-worker for these comments?

How do we calculate FMLA eligibility on rehire?

11/13/2015
Q. We have an employee who was employed with our company from May, 2010 until April, 2011. The employee was rehired in 2015 and worked approximately nine months. Has the employee satisfied the requirement of 12 months of employment despite the three-year gap in employment under the FMLA?

How much background check info can we divulge?

11/13/2015
Q. We terminated an employee’s employment because of a recent conviction. A state agency has asked for details about the reason for the termination. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, what can we share with the agency regarding details on background checks?

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.
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