ASK THE ATTORNEY

When an employee breaks our travel policy, must we pay for the trip?

03/02/2015

Q: “If an employee violates the written travel policy regarding purchasing plane tickets, can we refuse to reimburse them?” – Rochelle, Florida

At what point can we terminate an employee during a prolonged medical leave?

03/02/2015

Q: “We have an employee who has been on workers’ compensation for nine months. He has requested that his fractured ankle be operated on. Our HR associate wants to terminate him on the grounds that after the operation he would have been on FMLA for over a year. We realize the employee would still be carried by our insurer. Can we legally terminate an employee on workers’ compensation after a year’s medical leave?” – Vincent, Louisiana

Disabled employee wants to do more than we feel comfortable with--can we refuse?

03/02/2015

Q: “Is it disability discrimination to keep an employee from performing job duties listed on the job description?” – Anonymous, California

Have we been remiss in not reporting injuries to the state?

03/02/2015

Q: “I am relatively new to my job as human resources manager in this facility. I was asking the person who used to handle workers’ compensation claims before I was hired how we were handling them. He stated that for injuries, we have employees use their BCBS coverage. If there are out of pocket expenses, we reimburse them. He stated we do this for two reasons: First, we are fully self-insured, and second, because the injury has never been severe enough to warrant an insurance claim. I am not comfortable with this procedure at all. Is it acceptable to handle claims this way?” - Dorothy, Michigan

The DOL is investigating us! How much are we entitled to know?

02/16/2015

Q: “Our organization just underwent a U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division investigation. When the investigator was leaving, I asked her if I would ever know why we were being investigated and she told me no, I would not. Is this investigation and the final report anything that I can request through the Freedom of Information Act? During our investigation the name of a company very similar to ours kept popping up in the questioning. I actually asked if they were investigating us by mistake. The investigator just smiled, then asked another question … – Gina, Michigan

What's the downfall of reserving these benefits only for certain workers?

02/16/2015

Q: “Can a company pay for 100% of some employees’ medical insurance and not others? Can we offer certain employees life insurance and not others? Can we offer certain employees "business class" on flights longer than five hours and not others?” – Alyson, New Jersey

How do we handle F-1 visas?

02/16/2015

Q: “What are the employer guidelines when hiring someone with an F-1 visa?” – Mike, New Jersey

What is the place of customary practices when they're not specifically outlined in a CBA?

02/16/2015

Q: “Our union employees are entitled to a bonus for risk in the area of work. Under the CBA, that bonus is stated for the amount of $450.00 per year. For the last 28 years, the employer has been using paying that amount of $450.00 and adding the extra hours to make the computation for each union employee. (That interpretation was made by the accounting department; it is not in the CBA.) The employer wants to pay what is on the CBA only ($450.00) without adding payment for the extra hours. Does past custom between employer and union employees force the employer to continue to act according to the custom that is not in the CBA? Is there a case that discusses this matter?” – Carlos, Florida

The employee is well enough to do the job--do we have to grant intermittent FMLA leave?

02/16/2015
Q: “Can we refuse a request for FMLA intermittent leave for a serious health condition when the physician has checked the box indicating that there is no part of that employee’s job that the employee is not able to perform? We included a copy of the job description with the FMLA paperwork we provided.” – Kary, Maryland

I need to find out more about the safe harbor provision. Where do I turn?

02/16/2015
Q: “I have a situation with the IRS re: misclassification of employees. I am trying to find a good reference book or some such thing with a few sample letters I may be able to use to handle this issue (Section 530). Do you know of any?”  - Tim, Illinois

How can we fine-tune our job application to spot bad drivers?

02/16/2015

Q: “We currently have a question on our employment application that asks whether the person has been convicted of a crime, and if yes, to please explain. However, we would also like to ask about speeding tickets, moving violations, etc., since all of our employees transport individuals with special needs. Our liability insurance won't cover anyone who has had a DUI within the past seven years or three or more moving violations within the past 36 months. How can we legally ask about the person's driving record in order to weed out bad drivers without having to pay for a background/driving check?” – Janet, North Carolina

What is the protocol on asking employees to provide a doctor's note?

02/01/2015
Q: “When an employee calls off sick for more than one day, is there a minimum amount of days off required before an employer can ask for a doctor’s note? Also, in the state of Pennsylvania are you permitted to ask the specific reason for the absence?” – Joe, Pennsylvania

What exactly is the employee head count that brings the ACA into play?

01/26/2015

Q: “Please clarify for me the number of employees it takes to place a company under the obligation of Obamacare. Our insurance carrier said it had been increased from 50 employees to 100.” – Vincent, Louisiana

Did we shortchange this employee on his seniority when we rehired him?

01/21/2015
Q: “An employee left the company in good standing to pursue other interests in August of 2012. We rehired him six months later and started him as a new employee. He lost his previous seniority of 13+ years. My position is that his original seniority date should have been adjusted to reflect his time away from work, and that he should not have returned with new employee status. What do other companies do, and is there any legal support for my position?” – T., New Jersey

Is this worker's 'sincerely held' religious belief just a smokescreen?

01/21/2015
Q: “We recently hired a delivery driver, and during the interview and orientation he was told he had to shave his beard due to delivering to schools, residence, etc. We have a policy of no beards. He showed up to work his first day still unshaven. When asked why, he said that it’s against Protestant religion to shave. Is this so?” – Connie, Florida
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