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Ask the Attorney Archives

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Are we interpreting our workweeks incorrectly, and in doing so, creating FLSA worries?

Q: “I am attempting to understand the FLSA rules on overtime. I have an employee who works at a reception counter greeting guests, directing them to their stations, checking them in and out. This employee is an hourly employee making $13.50/hour, working between 35-45 hours per week. Is she entitled to overtime over 40 hours per week? Also, we get paid on the 15th and end of the month and our workweek runs from Sunday to Saturday. This past pay period, we had three weeks, as follows: Week 1: June 1 – June 2 Week 2: June 3 – June 9 Week 3: June 10 – 15 “With the exception of week two, this employee did not have a chance to work a full week. In this situation, I feel like I am not looking at the workweek correctly…?” – Katie, Louisiana

In Michigan, can we deduct money from a paycheck upon termination or separation?

Q: “In the state of Michigan, may I legally deduct money from a paycheck for tools, equipment or clothing when an employee is terminated or quits? May I have them sign a document which authorizes me to do so? Also, when an employee is terminated or quits, do I have to have their paycheck available on the normal payday, or is there a time limit I may I hold it for?” – Bill, Michigan

How do we handle pay for offsite meetings?

Q: “Our company holds quarterly meetings offsite during the day. Employees are not required to attend, but are invited and you could even say encouraged. Hourly employees who attend are paid if they attend; if they do not attend they are not paid but can take available PTO. Since the day has already begun for the employees, they need to travel to the event. Some drive themselves, some ride with others etc. The quarterly meetings are to communicate company updates, team building etc. The question is regarding travel pay. Can the company have those in attendance sign in when they arrive to “take attendance” and when payroll is submitted, add four hours to their pay for that time? The four hours would be based on the length of the event. This would be like holiday pay or a PTO day—added hours that do not reflect a specific time of arrival and departure, nor would it necessarily include travel time for either traveling to the event or back to the office at the end of the day. The reason to go back to the office would be if they carpooled. Otherwise they would go home from the event. If not, do you have other suggestions in lieu of paying employees for the travel time to the event?” – Christy, North Carolina

How do we address an employee odor problem?

Q: “How should employee complaints regarding a co-worker’s offensive smells be handled? The personal appearance policies do not address personal hygiene or smells which may be objectionable to co-workers.” – Lisa, Massachusetts

Can overtime payments be deferred till a later date?

Q: “Our type of industry is very seasonal; during our peak times employees often will work overtime, while during our off-season they do not work many hours. Can our employees choose to bank overtime hours and get paid for them during the off-season time when they work less than 40 hours in a given week? I understand that it is illegal to use comp time for private employers; however we are not giving time off, we are just paying their overtime hours at a later time.” – Cecilia, California

Should we keep our policy manual and our employee handbook separate?

Q: “We currently have an employee manual that is an employee handbook and policy manual rolled into one. Are there reasons to keep these separate?” – Sandy, Illinois

How many requests for a doctor’s note is too many?

Q: “Our employee handbook states ‘If you are gone due to illness for more than two days, a doctor’s note is needed.’ When we have excessive absences for occasional illness I ask that they bring in a doctor’s note each time to discourage unnecessary absences until the attendance improves. Am I wrong?” – Jeff, Iowa

Do we need a workplace dating policy to address a recent problem?

Q: “We don’t currently have a workplace romance/dating policy, but are seeing the need for one since we are now aware of a relationship between a supervisor and employee. Can we adopt a policy now and enforce it immediately (such as transfers or separation of the two employees)?” – Amianne, Maryland

Who pays the costs during and after an employee’s substance abuse treatment?

Q: “What is the company’s responsibility for employees experiencing problems with alcohol or controlled substances who are encouraged to seek assistance voluntarily? If we direct employees to available services, or if testing for drugs is in place when an employee has returned to work following a treatment program, are we responsible for the costs involved?” – Anonymous, Pennsylvania

Adjunct professors: exempt or nonexempt?

Q: “Is an adjunct professor (permanent/part time) classified as exempt or non? The generalization is that typically salaried personnel are exempt; faculty are in fact paid salary, but they sign contracts/agreements each term.” – Kenneth, New York
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