Q&A

Are retreat prizes taxable income?

12/24/2013
Q. We hold a team-building retreat every year where we give employees prizes after completing certain challenges. Are those prizes considered taxable income?

Can we hire contractors and later--if they work out--convert them into employees?

12/23/2013
Q. We’re expanding our marketing efforts over the next few months. Because we don’t have much time to go through a rigorous recruitment effort, we are considering hiring a number of people on a contractor basis. If they work out, we’ll then consider hiring them as employees. Can we do that?

Instead of laying off, can we redefine the job, pay?

12/17/2013
Q. Are there any laws that prohibit offering a new job description with a lower wage in place of a layoff?

Must we tell staff & visitors they're being watched?

12/10/2013

Q. We recently installed cameras in our plant’s production areas. The cameras aren’t hidden, and it is common knowledge they were installed. Do I need to post something notifying employees and visitors that the area is under video surveillance? Should I have employees sign something? 

Worker won't sign off on handbook: Can we fire her?

12/04/2013

Q. We just updated our policy manual and are asking employees to sign a standard acknowledgment of receipt form. If an employee refuses to sign it, is that grounds for termination? Or should we just document that they refused to sign? 

Should we use arbitration agreements to help resolve employment disputes?

12/03/2013
In California, companies adopting arbitration agreements face a number of difficult decisions in crafting their agreements to ensure that they will be enforceable while also maximizing the benefits of arbitration.

What steps should we take to ensure supervisors issue consistent discipline?

12/02/2013
Q. We are having a hard time keeping discipline consistent between supervisors. To promote consistency, upper management would like to implement a new discipline policy setting out what disciplinary steps should be followed. Do you recommend this?

Is probationary employee entitled to holiday pay?

11/29/2013
Q. Are we required to offer holiday pay to employees who are within their 90-day probationary period? Or can we start paying extra for holiday work only after the probationary period is complete?

Is there a legal way to ask if candidates will be able to work weekends and after hours?

11/27/2013
Q. We are currently interviewing for an event coordinator position, which would require the person to frequently work well beyond the usual 9-to-5 workweek. Is there a way we can ask about personal situations and make it clear that missing these events because of family obligations would not be tolerated?

How should we handle time tracking for nonexempt telecommuters?

11/27/2013
Q. We try to be a flexible workplace and sometimes get requests from employees to work from home for a day or two during school breaks and so on. I don’t have a problem with this for exempt em­­ployees, but what about hourly ones? How do we track that time?

Ex-worker didn't return property: Can we tap his PTO?

11/22/2013
Q. After an employee quit, he failed to return certain company property (badge, access card, etc.). Can we legally withhold his PTO balance because of this? 

Can we ban e-cigarettes?

11/19/2013
Q. Over the past few months I have been seeing more and more electronic cigarettes in our city. Last week, an employee walked into our office while smoking an electronic cigarette. I’d like to ban their use in our offices. I’ve heard that e-cigarettes are just as addictive as the real things.

What should we do about email still on former employee's company-issued cellphone?

11/19/2013
Q. We give our employees company phones. An employee recently resigned and turned in her phone to her supervisor, in compliance with our technology policy. A week later, it came to my attention that the supervisor had not deleted the departed employee’s email that was still on the phone. A new hire who had been issued the phone could read those messages. What should we do?

Must we interview men for our receptionist job?

11/19/2013
Q. We advertised for a front-desk receptionist opening and got 44 applications. Three were from men, all qualified. We’ve always had a female in that job and would like to keep it that way. We plan to interview five finalists. Must we include one of the men to avoid sex discrimination charges?

What should we do about reports that new employee smells of alcohol?

11/06/2013
Q. There have been a few reports from co-workers about a new employee smelling of alcohol, although he shows no sign of intoxication. Can we ask him if he has been drinking on duty?
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