ASK THE ATTORNEY

Can we attempt this across-the-board wage reduction?

06/30/2015
Q: “Our organization has to reduce salary wages by 20 percent. The plan is to reduce three of the five departments to 32 hours and adjust their wages accordingly. Can this legally be done?” – Vince, Louisiana

Have we made our employees' contact info too accessible?

06/15/2015
Q: “We have created an employee directory in Outlook that contains employees’ personal information (home phone, cellphone number, address). This directory is for internal use only and only current employees have access to the directory. One of the employees expressed displeasure with having personal information available to all employees. Is there any legal issue with us posting their personal information in this directory? Do we need to get employees’ permission?” – JMG, New Jersey

When hiring, can a church inquire about an applicant's religious beliefs?

06/15/2015
Q: “As a church employer, is it legal for us to request an applicant to state his/her religious beliefs, or to require them to be of our beliefs? Also, should we include our ‘Statement of Religious Beliefs’ in our employee handbook?” – Judy, Missouri

What sort of disclosure should we provide when an investigation begins?

06/15/2015
Q: “Often an employer needs to conduct investigations not strictly related to harassment and discrimination. My understanding is that those investigations require a disclosure, i.e. the company states there will be no retaliation, and confidentiality will be assured except in need-to-know situations. But if we are investigating a policy violation for example, or theft, are these disclosures required, and if not, is it a best practice regardless?” – Anonymous, New York

Can we eavesdrop on customer calls for training purposes?

06/15/2015
Q: “Is it legal, without informing the caller, to have a supervisor listen in on a trainee’s conversation with a customer?” – Vincent, Texas

If employee is slowing down, can we ask about his health?

06/01/2015
Q. We have an experienced employee who is not working at an acceptable pace. We need to address his speed, but we're concerned he may have medical issues. Can we ask him about his health? – Anonymous, Illinois

Are returning summer employees considered new hires?

05/26/2015

Q: "We have a few college students who work for us during their summer break. According to the law, are they required to complete new employment paperwork (I-9, W-4, etc.) each year?” – Marchia, Oklahoma

Is the company liable for what happens when an employee leaves the premises on break?

05/26/2015

Q: “If an employee leaves company premises during his/her designated paid and/or unpaid breaks (without clocking out) to retrieve meals (personal items), etc., is the company liable if the employee is involved in an incident?" – Denise, Louisiana

If there's no other work for an injured employee, can we terminate?

05/26/2015

Q: “An employee in Oklahoma claims he hurt his wrist while operating a grinder. His supervisor sent him to the doctor. The physician sent him back to work the next day with restrictions. He said the employee should ‘never’ operate a grinder. This is the position the employee was hired for and there is no other available work for him. Do we terminate him or try and make work for him?” – Vincent, Oklahoma

Workers in multiple states with multiple sick leave laws--what to do?

05/26/2015

Q: “We have employees who work in several states. I know that some states have mandated paid sick leave. We, as a company, do not have 'sick leave' but do have vacation time. Since Oklahoma does not have this law, how should we handle those employees who live in a state that mandates paid sick leave? If, to comply with a certain state law, we must offer paid sick leave to a small number of employees, would we be required to have paid sick leave for all of them?" – Marchia, Oklahoma

How does the FLSA apply to state agencies?

05/25/2015

Q: “To what extent are state governmental entities required to comply with Fair Labor Standards Act regulations? Exactly like the private sector?" – Kary, Maryland

We missed this applicant's worrisome criminal conviction, so what now?

05/18/2015
Q: “We hired a sales manager last month who does a great job and acts in a very professional manner at work; however, one of the guys with whom he works found out through online research that he is a convicted sexual offender. He apparently attempted to commit the crime by engaging online with a minor. We never ran a background check. What should I consider before firing someone based on information like that? Can I fire someone based on the severity of the crime? Can I only background-check the management instead?"  – Rachel, Alabama

What's the difference between a 'formal' and 'informal' workplace investigation?

05/18/2015
Q: “I am taking investigations training and they make the distinction between a formal and informal investigation. I am confused as to what the difference is, since both in my opinion require the same process with regard to talking to people to find out information. I am obviously aware that investigations in general are required by law; for example, in allegations of harassment. Can you please explain the difference?” – Lara, New York

Our mandatory uniforms are pricier than most--can we deduct their cost from an employee's check?

05/18/2015
Q: “It's mandatory at our workplace that employees wear steel-toed boots. We will provide the boots, but would prefer to do so after the employee passes the 60-day probationary period to prevent providing boots to employees who walk out the door after only two weeks of employment. If an employee leaves earlier than 60 days, are we legally able to deduct the money from his or her final pay for the costs of the mandatory boots? I'd read that Indiana law does not allow employers to deduct the cost of mandatory uniforms from an employee's paycheck. Would I be able to legally deduct for boots or uniforms issued if the employee signed an agreement (wage deduction assignment)?” – Vickie, Indiana

Worker was only here for two weeks--should we challenge the unemployment claim?

05/18/2015
Q: “We employed a person for less than two weeks, and were able to notice she was not a good fit for what we were looking for. This person filed for unemployment and we appealed, providing some information about why she wasn't what we wanted. We talked to the employee about our expectations, but she wasn't able to perform. She still got the unemployment granted. Should we appeal again? There isn't a probation period to make sure a person is what she claims to be.” – Raquel, Alabama
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