How much detail about our benefits plan should we include in the employee handbook?

Q: “I’m working with a small business and their handbook. Should they include a safe harbor clause under the benefits section for their 401k plan? In the past, I have limited the amount of information on benefits in the handbook because they can change, and instead I just refer the employee to the summary plan documents.” – Ann, Kentucky

When an employee damages our property and then quits, is there any recourse?


Q: “In the spring, an employee was working on a backhoe loading a bin when he pulled up to a concrete wall and tore off the door of the tractor. We could not find a door until last week. It was $275. In the meantime, he decided to quit. He gave two weeks’ notice. When we made his last check, we deducted $275 for the door. He called saying he had talked to a lawyer and we’d better give him a new check with the money back in or else he was going to sue. Can he do this since he owes us a door?" – Mary Ann, Oklahoma

What must we divulge to collection agencies and loan providers?

Q: “I have a small business client who wants to know what information they have to give to a collections agency or loan provider when called. What are the legal should and should nots?” – Ann, Kentucky

What's changing with at-will employment?


Q: “I've heard of a recent court ruling that could impact ‘at-will’ employment. Can you describe the ruling or provide the information to look it up in the records?” - Keith, Louisiana

Employee's medical condition might be a real safety concern--can we terminate?


Q: “We recently hired a new employee, who on the first day of orientation publicly announced that she had a seizure disorder. We operate a facility that works with vulnerable adults, and the employee would have direct contact and be required to drive. What, if any, options do we have with regard to discharging the employee because of the incredible risk potential for the client's safety, without discriminating; or figuring out accommodations (the employee has not asked for any to date) for continued employment?” – Martin, Minnesota

Health benefits: Are we a Medicare Secondary Payer?


Q: “I am looking for the rules in Medicare Secondary Payer rulings that apply to a large employer that becomes a less-than-20-employee employer, and when it would qualify to be the secondary payer." – Pam, Ohio

What to do when a just-employed worker is suddenly out with a serious illness?

Q: “We purchase commercial and single-family buildings and renovate them. We also manage the properties and in some cases, keep the staff and hire them under our payroll. We submitted a job offer to a man who will be doing patrol security at one of our properties. His start date was to be July 15. His compensation was an offer to live rent-free from month to month. We just got a call that he had an aneurysm and is in the hospital for an undisclosed amount of time. It’s terrible news for anyone to hear and for anyone to go through. However, how should we handle this? Continue to pay rent? Terminate his employment? Hire someone in the interim?” – Nichole, California

Our designated smoking area still isn't isolated enough for some--now what?


Q: “We currently have a smoking/break area outside our building in a ventilated area. It works for what we need. Our problem is that the smoke seems to be drifting into the ventilation system and ending up in the office of someone who is super-sensitive to smells. Knowing there is a problem with smoke/secondhand smoke, what are our options in our state to move the smokers to their vehicles, etc.? Or do we need to provide a place for our smokers onsite?” - Paula, Nebraska

Must we base benefits on the number of hours an employee works?


Q: “We are under 50 employees, so we aren't mandated to provide healthcare to 30-hour employees. However, we have been providing health insurance to our 30-hour employees (they all happen to be a manager status). Can we base benefits on employee class irrespective of hours, or if we give any 30-hour employee benefits would we need to do it for all of them? The question relates to our paid interns that we move to a 30-hour status.” – Greg, Florida

How much of the FLSA applies to nonprofits?


Q: “Do the requirements and case law around the FLSA. exempt versus non-exempt status and overtime payments pertain to nonprofits? We spoke with an attorney who says that nonprofits are not under this regulation, which I have never heard. I have always been told that while nonprofits may be audited less frequently than for-profit businesses, they are still required to comply with all the FLSA laws. Which is correct?” – Kary, Maryland

What are the nuts and bolts of hiring a foreign worker?


Q: “We are considering hiring a lady from Canada to sell our products in Canada. We have no idea where to start the process of hiring a foreign worker. Suggestions?” – Debbie, Texas

What should we do about 'negative dilute' drug test results?


Q: “We currently have employees who keep getting results of ‘negative dilute’ during drug tests. Our policy is to not accept the result and to retest. Can we require the retest to be an observed collection?” – Ross, Ohio

Can we compel employees to work before or after a holiday to receive its bonus pay?

Q: “We want to add a new addition to our policy regarding holiday pay that states the employee is required to work either the day prior to, or the day after a holiday in order to receive pay for that holiday unless a previous request for time off was submitted and approved prior to the holiday week pay period. Is this something we can add, as shown below?” – Bryan, California

Personnel files--how long must we keep them?

Q: “How long do we need to keep personnel files? Also, can we keep them in offsite storage as long as we want?" – JMDG, New Jersey

Should temp workers sign a different employment agreement than other staff?

Q: “For temporary employees, do we need to have a separate employee agreement with a signature page if we already have an employee manual with a signature page?” – Joey, California
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