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Ask the Attorney Archives

How do we revise our PTO payout policy in midstream?

Q: “Over the past few months we have had several employees voluntarily leave our employment. According to Oklahoma state law, we are not obligated to pay the employee for unused PTO hours; however, according to our employee handbook, the employee will be paid for unused PTO hours. Can we change our employee handbook, with proper notice to all employees, to state that the company is not obligated to pay resigned employees for unused PTO hours? Currently employees accumulate PTO hours on a yearly basis. Can we change our PTO policy to allow employees to accrue on a specified basis, i.e. hourly, daily, monthly instead?” – M., Oklahoma

Who has the right to know what’s in a personnel file?

Q: “Do employees have a legal right to information an employer keeps in its personnel records? Or should Human Resources be the only department with access to this information (except for Legal when required for compliance reasons)?” – Maren, Virginia

What is the most efficient method to deal with prolonged file retention?

Q: “An employer is seeking to transition from paper to digital employment files. They have a retention policy that is based on the type of each document, rather than a standard policy that permits them to retain everything for a set number of years following termination of employment or a period of time afterward. Their policy requires them to add metadata to each document so that documents that reach their retention date can be purged automatically by the system. “They would prefer not to increase the staff workload by requiring them to tag individual documents. Currently, they have two team members spend several weeks a year reviewing every employee file to purge documents that should be shredded. What is best practice here, and what have you seen other companies do to comply with the file retention guidelines of multiple laws and regulations?” – Maren, Virginia

Can we adjust salaries downward because of a lower cost of living?

Q: “An employee is moving within the company from the California, Ventura area to Phoenix, Arizona. When discussing compensation, would it be discriminatory to remove considerable pay after relocating? For example, if the employee is making 64k and we lower the pay by 17% because of the lower cost of living?” – David, Arizona

What can we ask under the New Jersey Sick Leave Pay Law?

Q: “Regarding the newly enacted NJ Sick Leave Pay Law, it is my understanding that employers cannot ask employees about the specific reason for using NJ Sick Leave. However, how does a supervisor establish whether the days qualify for NJ Sick Leave pay or not? If an employee just asks for a day off, can the supervisor ask if it falls under one of the qualifying reasons? We have a number of temporary workers who are now entitled to this paid time off and we are being cautious about what to ask, but we also need to know if the time off requested is covered.” Monica, New Jersey

How should we store I-9s?

Q: “It is strongly suggested that federal Form I-9s be kept in a separate folder. If that is the case, do you have to have an individual folder for each I-9, or can all I-9s be in the same folder?” – Cindy, Ohio

Can we reduce an exempt employee’s hours and pay?

Q:“I have a salaried exempt associate who will be taking a reduction in hours starting in June. She is an officer of the company. She will be working 32 hours instead of current 45-50. Can we put this individual on an hourly rate instead of salary?” – Cindy, North Dakota

Is there a two-year residency requirement for Pennsylvania’s in-home care workers?

Q: “For an agency that provides in-home care to seniors in Pennsylvania, the caretakers are required to provide proof of two-year residency. Would office staff also be required to have this even though they do not work in the home with the clients?” – Anonymous, Pennsylvania

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