Same employee, different work--are different pay rates OK?

Q: “Is it legal to pay an employee to ‘volunteer’ at a company event at a lower rate than what we typically pay them? The event is a conference where staff would be manning a booth, answering questions, giving out information, etc.  – Yari, Illinois

Employee takes FMLA leave, but wants to keep up with union duties--must we allow it?


Q: “Should our company permit an employee (also a union steward) who is granted time off under FMLA to continue to come to the workplace to perform union duties?” – Kathie, Pennsylvania

When is travel time to work compensable?

Q: “Our employee's workday begins at a site location, which could be an hour or more from home, and there is no other "corporate office" location. It is my understanding that travel time to work (wherever that may be) is not compensable. Is there any instance in which this is not true? For example, a very long distance from home?” – Anonymous, North Carolina

Was this employee allowed by law to record us secretly?


Q: “I counseled an employee who had a confrontation with another manager. After the meeting with both of them, I was told that the employee recorded our entire meeting using her cellphone. I told her that if this was true, she should erase it, as she didn't have our permission to record us, and since patients’ names were mentioned, she is violating our confidentiality (HIPAA) policies. The employee filed for unemployment two days later claiming she was fired, but the decision to let her go was not made until a week later. Was it legal to record us without permission, and could she file for unemployment thinking she might be fired?” – Anonymous, Pennsylvania

What counts as a medical record as required by Form I-9?

Q: Form I-9 allows a person under 18 to provide a school record, report card or medical record to show identity under list B. Do you have examples of what the medical record would be?” – Anonymous, Ohio

Can we ban surreptitious recording in the workplace?

Q: “We have been told that an employee is recording workplace conversations with co-workers as well as members of management. Can we ban recording devices from our manufacturing buildings? We have manufacturing operations in South Dakota, Iowa and Missouri, and we have repair facilities in Nebraska, Oklahoma, Indiana and Kansas.” – Anonymous, South Dakota

What are our tax obligations when paying independent contractors working overseas?

Q: “We use independent contractors who live and work in the USA, but the company they work for is in Ireland. The contractors are paid via PayPal in Eurocurrency. Is our company responsible for annual 1099 and reporting wages to the Euro Tax Board?” – Anonymous, California

Can voicing concern over employee mistakes backfire?


Q: “If an employee makes four mistakes in a short period of time, can the employer ask, ‘Is everything OK at home?’ Actually, the mistakes were not made in a short time frame, but were discovered in the same month. One error was generated over a year ago, another a couple of months ago, one was a matter of preference (not really an error), etc. This is office work, not a factory production line, and not a safety issue.” – Susan, North Carolina

Are we flirting with overtime violations by playing fast and loose with our job descriptions?


Q: “My company is trying to determine which of our support staff should be considered exempt; specifically, our administrative assistants and our specialists. Typically, we are requiring a college degree and 0-6 years of experience for various levels of our specialists, except for Level 1 specialists, who are nonexempt. Our problem stems from the fact that we have a good number of specialists performing ‘admin work at specialist pay.’ Do we need to re-write our job descriptions?” – Anonymous, Washington

How far can we go to limit relationships, or even communication, among employees?


Q: “Can an employer have a policy of non-fraternization among workers?” – Anonymous, Florida

Has our office book club created overtime concerns?


Q: “If we have an office book club which reviews a book on work time, do we have to pay employees to read the book while on their off time?” – Judy, Alaska

Can we recoup a worker's earned but unused vacation time?


Q: “If an employee gets three weeks of vacation in January, and resigns in April, how much vacation time should be paid? I'm confused since the employee is salaried manager and would not get approved to take more than one week at a time.” – Pat, Pennsylvania

What are the rules of thumb for motor vehicle record background checks?

Q: “I am working on a motor vehicle record background check policy; any advice?” – Kholiwe, Georgia

How do we make it clear to this manager that he's creating a hostile work environment?

Q: “I’ve been counseling a manager who refuses to take my advice and who I think could be headed for a hostile work environment charge. The manager ‘inherited’ an administrative assistant from his predecessor. She’s been there for 15 years; they’ve been working together for the last six. Everyone else loves her; she’s hardworking, efficient and has the best interests of the organization at heart. He refuses to talk with her when he goes past her desk to get to his office. He requires her to schedule a meeting, which he then blows off or cuts short. He complains she screws up his calendar, but he’s the one not showing up for meetings or rolling in late. He frequently asks her when she’s going to retire (she’s 63). What more can I do?” – Anonymous, Washington

Social workers: exempt or nonexempt?

Q: “When reviewing positions to see if they are exempt or nonexempt, I am having a hard time with social workers. I am unsure if they would be exempt under the Learned Professional category. Our agency has a number of social workers with different level degrees and certifications, so how can I be sure if they are exempt or nonexempt?” – Anonymous, New Jersey
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