ASK THE ATTORNEY

New job title, but same pay--could it be perceived as a demotion?

08/24/2015
Q: “We are reviewing our job descriptions. If a title is changed from Assistant HR Director to HR Tech but there is no change in pay, might it be considered a demotion?” – Patricia, Florida

Employee may be using FMLA leave for years to come--how often can we request an updated certification?

08/24/2015
Q: “If an employee has requested lifelong, intermittent FMLA leave (worked one year, and worked over 1,250 hours in preceding 12 months), can an employer make a request for updated medical certification once per year? The employee continues to work at least 1,250 hours in a rolling calendar period.” – Anne, Minnesota

Can we obligate staff to use direct deposit?

08/24/2015
Q: “For employees who are paid hourly in the state of Massachusetts, can we ask them to enroll in direct deposit with a bank to cut down on the company expenses, or is that illegal?” – Diane, Massachusetts

Do we need to give employees travel pay if they cut their trip short?

08/24/2015
Q: “I have employees that are required to be on long-term assignments two or three weeks at a time. To save money, I put employees up in a hotel (which is paid for) and they receive a per diem. In some cases, they are required to stay the weekend to save on travel costs. If I have a policy set up that an employee must stay in a hotel (paid for by the company) because the travel distance is too far (more than 250 miles) and the employee refuses to stay and drives home instead, am I required to pay them travel pay and mileage?” – Kristin, Pennsylvania

Can seasonal employees collect unemployment benefits?

08/23/2015
Q: “Can seasonal employees collect unemployment benefits?” – Helen, New Jersey

Should we adopt a 'proof of marriage' rule at our workplace?

08/03/2015

Q: “We just received our first request for a same-sex spouse to be covered under our insurance. We have no problem doing this as long as they are actually married because we don’t cover domestic partners on our policy. Are we permitted to ask for proof of marriage even if we don’t ask for proof from opposite-sex spouses? I would like to have a policy that states that if your last name is different than that of the spouse you wish to cover, we will need proof of marriage. Is that legal?” – Susie, Pennsylvania

Must we pay employees for time spent filling out new hire paperwork?

08/03/2015
Q: “Should employees completing new hire paperwork be paid for that time, even if it is before their official start date?” - Geri, Idaho

Can we terminate for attendance problems despite a doctor's note?

08/03/2015
Q: “Is there a circumstance when an employer can terminate an employee for attendance even if the time missed is usually for medical reasons with a doctor’s note to back it up? An employee told his supervisor this morning when his attendance problem was mentioned that he couldn’t be fired for his attendance issues when he is out for medical reasons. The medical issues are not work-related.” – Marchia, Oklahoma

How is 'bonding time' handled under the FMLA?

08/03/2015

Q: “Does a new father have to take FMLA leave for the birth and bonding all at one time? Intermittent leave is not allowed?” – Carol, Iowa

How do we handle these two FMLA edge cases?

07/24/2015
Q: “An employee requests permission to arrive 5-10 minutes late for work each morning because her spouse suffers from multiple sclerosis, and is so fatigued that he cannot get out of bed on his own in the morning to take his medicine. Is the employee considered eligible for intermittent FMLA? Is an employee asking to leave work on occasion to pick up her father, who suffers from dementia and sometimes wanders off, eligible for intermittent FMLA?” – April, Tennessee

Might disciplining too soon after an injury invite a retaliation claim?

07/21/2015
Q: “An employee violated a safety rule and injured himself. Would we be setting ourselves up for a retaliation claim if we issued him a write-up on the day of his return?” – Vincent, Lousiana

Did we offer this employee the right options when his health insurance ran out?

07/21/2015
Q: "We are a small employer in the state of New Jersey, with less than fifty employees. We have some questions in reference to an employee, a truck driver. First, the employee had unexpected heart surgery, and will be out of work for five or six months. We paid for his medical insurance for an additional one-and-a-half months after his surgery, but we can no longer afford the expense of the medical insurance and offered him the COBRA plan. The broker tells us, 'In the state of New Jersey, you have to be on the payroll in order to be on the medical plan.' The employee told us, 'I can't afford the COBRA payment.' Certified letters were mailed to him explaining the COBRA law, and the amount of money he has to pay is more than $1,300. Are we right or wrong in what we did? In addition, do we have to take him back when he is medically able to return? The position has already been filled, the new employee is outperforming him, and we don’t want him back." – Joseph, New Jersey

What limits can we put on unpaid leave without a potential FMLA or other violation?

07/06/2015
Q: “What should we do about an employee who has exhausted her PTO but continues to use unpaid leave with little or no notice?” – Holly, Virginia

Can we pay our registered nurses a salary and make them exempt employees?

07/06/2015
Q: “Some days our surgery schedule is longer than eight hours; some days it is less and our nurses can go home early. As they are licensed professionals and make more than double the minimum wage, what is the exempt rule?” – Debra, California

Can employees be paid partially in housing credit?

07/06/2015
Q: “I work with a property management company who hires current tenants to work around the property, cleaning or doing outside work. They are currently compensated with a monthly rent credit. They put in as many hours as is necessary to get the job done, which could put them over 40 hours in a week. They sign a contract with the company to do this. Are there any issues with doing this? Should they be hired on and paid as an employee?” – Susan, Michigan
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