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Ask the Attorney Archives

How do we solve these problems concerning alcohol in the office?

Q: “The owner of our company recently added kegs to our offices in Idaho and California. How can I ensure we are protected against harassment and DUI? How do you create a policy about that? What if we hire a former alcoholic who is threatened by the presence of alcohol?” – Anonymous, Idaho

Who is permitted to complete a W-4 form?

Q: “Is it illegal for payroll to complete the W-4 for an employee as long as the employee signs the form? I am looking for a regulation, publication or opinion letter saying yes or no to this.” – Lisa, Texas

How long can we withhold a final paycheck for uniform costs?

Q: “Our employees are allowed to ‘rent’ uniforms, but they are not required to wear them. If an employee leaves and does not turn in their uniform, the uniform company charges us for each item on a future bill. Because the uniform company only comes around once a week, sometimes we do not know what the unreturned uniforms are worth by the time the final paycheck is calculated. The owner of the company wants to withhold the final paycheck until either all uniforms are turned in or we receive the bill for unreturned uniforms. This could be a delay of up to three weeks. Can we indefinitely withhold the final paycheck of earned income beyond the normal payday?” – Donna, North Carolina

Can we dictate that an employee use FMLA leave in increments?

Q: “An exempt employee expected to work a regular eight-hour workday provided medical documentation that supported a request for a six-hour day to reduce workload. Is it possible to request that the employee take the leave in half day increments?” – Rachel, District of Columbia

Upon separation, must we pay employees for their unused vacation time?

Q: “Is an employer required to pay an employee who leaves employment of their own free will the vacation time they have accrued during the year prior to their leaving?”  – M., Oklahoma

How do we bring our harassment training into compliance in New York?

Q: “My consulting firm presents sexual harassment prevention training for our clients. The training has been designed to meet the guidelines of New York State and City. I have tried, to no avail, to locate a government agency that will review the program and verify/approve that it is in compliance.” – Kenneth, New York

What happens if we give faulty FMLA notice?

Q: “An employee went out on qualified FMLA leave. A letter was sent to her. Unfortunately it was a form letter that indicated that she was eligible for workers’ comp, but it was not workers’ comp leave. I just realized the mistake. How do I correct it?” – Kim, Virginia  

How do we count employees for Minnesota’s Parental Leave Law?

Q: “Regarding Minnesota’s Parental Leave Law, it is stated that: ‘Companies with 21 to 49 employees are covered by Minnesota’s Parental Leave Law. Companies with 50 or more employees are covered by the U.S. Family and Medical Leave Act.’ We have several part-time employees, some who work 15 hours a week or less. If all employees are counted, we are over 21. My question is: Do we count actual employees or FTE’s? Does 21 mean an equivalent of 21 full-time employees or 21 employees, no matter how many hours they work in a week?” – Carol, Minnesota

Are we on the hook for this error on an employee’s W-4?

Q: “We have an employee who is very upset because her W4 had been filled out incorrectly, claiming three dependents when she actually has none. The employee is claiming that the HR specialist (who is no longer working for us) filled out this information (and it does look like her handwriting). This employee has now resigned because she is so upset and I’m worried about where we stand legally regarding this?” – Anonymous, Pennsylvania

Must we allow an employee to reduce her own schedule?

Q: “We have a full-time employee who wants to reduce her schedule for personal reasons. Do we have to accommodate her? She is hourly.” – Anonymous, Pennsylvania