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Ask the Attorney Archives

How do we correct a ‘defective’ performance improvement plan?

Q: “Is a difference in date a valid reason to have a performance improvement plan rescinded? An employee received one stating that the purpose of the plan was to improve deficiencies in performance since January 2017. The plan was not indicative of the work or representative of an entire performance year. The issue is that the same employee received a merit increase in October 2016 and another in February 2017 for performing above expectations. The employee received two bonuses in the same cycle.” – Anonymous, Virginia

Can we deduct uniform costs from a final paycheck?

Q: “We are a public entity that provides uniforms to its employees. If the employee does not return the uniform, what is the rule for withholding money from the final check?” – Anonymous, Virginia

Where should we turn for state law compliance guidelines?


Q: “We have artists working in several states (Ca, N.C., Tex., N.Y., Co.) for our company. I want to make sure that we are compliant with applicable state labor laws. Two questions: 1. How can I make sure that I am not missing anything? 2. Should we create legal entities in these states, and if so, at which point?” – Jacqueline, New Mexico

Bonding time request falls during busy season–must we grant it?

Q: “An employee requested two weeks of ‘baby bonding time’ during our busy season. Do we have to approve it? Our company policies do not allow time off during our busy season. Can we authorize baby time off for a later time instead?” – Anonymous, California

Hostile environment, or just finicky bosses?

Q: “An employee came to human resources to discuss what he feels as his supervisor creating a hostile environment. He stated that his supervisor always brings him into the office about mistakes such as, ‘You left a comma off, you misspelled a word,’ etc. Also, as an example, he stated that he received approval by the CEO to have an event onsite. He was written up because he did not inform his supervisor about the event. The supervisor was on vacation and told him that he should have sent an email as a heads-up. The errors that he was written up for had no impact involving monetary, legal and liability to the agency or employees. He received an Above Expectation rating for the last performance cycle and a bonus; a year later, he was informed he was performing at 75% as a result of errors. He understands the definition of hostile environment. He feels it is hostile because it is interfering with his role as a supervisor and how he provides management oversight to the staff and department. What should be the next appropriate step?” – Anonymous, Virginia

When are severance payments due after a layoff?

Q: “How many days do we have after an employee is laid off to actually pay them their severance?” – Anonymous, Montana

Her injury wasn’t job-related … or was it?

Q: “An employee incurred a non-related work injury and was returned to full duty by her physician. Later, she stated that she re-injured herself while assisting another employee. Is this now considered a work-related injury? Should the employer file a workers’ compensation claim? – Anonymous, Virginia

What to do when an internal employee transfer causes start date squabbles?

Q: “Are there any hard and fast rules covering giving notice internally if a staff member is transferring from one internal org to another? I have a “hiring” manager and an employee who want to make the transfer in two weeks, but the “releasing” manager is dragging her feet and wants to work out a schedule that could increase the amount of time up to four or more weeks. No one is happy.” – Anonymous, Washington

Employee may have engaged in wrongdoing–what if a prospective employer calls?

Q: “We had an employee quit after being questioned about improper use of the company fuel card. If I receive a reference call, what information can I disclose?” – Brenda, South Carolina 

Are general checkups after birth covered by the FMLA?


Q: “An employee took FMLA leave for her pregnancy, with no medical issues during or after birth. Are wellness checks for the baby covered under the FMLA even though no serious health condition exists?” – Robert, New Mexico