ASK THE ATTORNEY

What suffices as a reasonable accommodation for prayer?

08/22/2016
Q: “What is the appropriate location for an employee who is Muslim requesting accommodations to pray during working hours? Would the location be much the same as what is offered to nursing mothers?” – Ernesdean, North Dakota

Can we offer a break on health insurance premiums to some workers but not others?

08/22/2016

Q: “We understand that we can offer different health care arrangements to different classes of employees. Specifically, can we provide different premium contributions to different employees, if there is a business reason to do so (to retain management, for example)?” – Joanne, Oklahoma

Is online training ever non-compensable?

07/18/2016

Q: “Can an employer require training online and not reimburse for the time spent?” – Kelly, Florida

Can we refuse to allow employees to travel the way they wish?

07/11/2016
Q: “Every year we send our sales staff to a couple of trade shows, mainly in Las Vegas. We book the flights and lodgings, pay mileage to and from the airport, pay for all meals and all hours worked at the trade show, plus overtime. We reimburse for any incidental expenses that may be incurred by the employees. Our 'star' employee prefers to drive next time instead of flying; this would mean an extra expense for our small company (for the longer travel time, extra meals, extra lodging and extra mileage). When we said no, everyone is flying, the employee replied that he would drive on his own dime. We do need this employee at the trade show, but it is not cost-efficient for us. I just want to make sure that we are not violating any labor laws by saying everyone must fly to this particular show (due to the distance), with no exceptions.”  – Nora, Wyoming

How do we phrase a job ad so we don't discriminate against foreign-born workers?

07/05/2016

Q: “I have a client with 40 employees that is not able to offer sponsorship to any candidate who is not legally able to work in the United States. I understand that we cannot put 'Prefer US citizen or authorized to work in the U.S.’ on a job ad, but is there any means that we can use to alert candidates to the requirements?” – Anne, District of Columbia

Will combining sick leave and vacation leave lead to a termination pay problem?

07/05/2016

Q: “In North Carolina, it is my understanding that employers are required to pay out any vacation earned and not used, but not sick leave. We have PTO which is intended to be used for both vacation and sick leave. Can I have a policy included in our handbook that at termination, employees can be paid out a maximum of, say, 10 of the 15 days they earn?” – Anonymous, North Carolina

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

06/13/2016
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?

05/31/2016

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?

05/23/2016
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?

05/23/2016

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?

05/23/2016
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?

05/23/2016
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?

05/22/2016
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?

05/16/2016

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?

05/16/2016

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

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