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Ask the Attorney Archives

When can we request a medical examination for a troubled employee?


Q: “Are there any legal implications if you request a fitness for duty exam for an employee who has exhibited unstable behavior at work? This behavior has been reported by several of his co-workers.” – Natalie, Virginia

Can we charge employees for lost access cards?


Q: “We have access cards to enable us to get into the building through our employee entrance. Cards are given at time of employment free of charge, and a form is signed to the effect that if the card is lost, there is a $25 replacement fee. Also, if the card is not returned at the end of employment, there is a $25 fee. Is this legal?”  – Andrea, New York

What do we do for an employee who needs leave–but just doesn’t meet the qualifications?

Q: “What recourse is there for a female employee who is not eligible for FMLA but who wishes to take a leave of absence to be with her daughter because the daughter is experiencing a difficult pregnancy? The Personal Leave of Absence Policy will allow up to 30 days’ absence under special circumstances for an employee with at least one year of employment who has exhausted all PTO. Unfortunately, the employee has only been with the company for six months; therefore, based on company policy, she is not eligible for the leave. Any suggestions?” – Natalie, Virginia

Is this level of dishonesty enough to warrant a legally safe termination?


Q: “What are the options for disciplining an offsite employee found to be taking unexcused time from work, and making false claims on his expense reports and customer visit logs?” – Anonymous, Michigan

Worker loses the company money: Can we ding the paycheck?

Q: “If an employee causes a monetary loss to the organization, can we deduct that loss from the employee’s paycheck? All our employees agree in writing that they will adhere to our Personnel Policy Manual, which states: ‘Loss of Revenue: If any staff member, whether full-time, part-time, temporary or seasonal, causes a loss of revenue because of negligence, it will be at the discretion of the Executive Office, based on the severity of the negligence, to determine the consequences of the infraction(s). The consequences include but are not limited to: written warning, probation, loss of one day vacation or paid holiday, the staff member being held liable to compensate the employer for one half the monthly cost, or the full cost of his/her health care. A consequence of negligence may also be dismissal.’” – Mendel, New York

Minnesota’s drug testing laws are so complicated! How do we craft a workplace policy?


Q: “We are a construction services firm that employs about 170 people, both office and field. Our employee handbook includes sections on drugs and alcohol, but we do not have a formal drug and alcohol testing policy. I am currently working on this so we can get it out to all of our current employees and also include it as a part of our conditional offer of employment. I have reviewed Minnesota Statute 181.951 and 181.952. Is a template or sample drug and alcohol testing policy available that I could use for reference?” – Sandy, Minnesota

Do exempts and nonexempts each need their own employee handbooks?


Q: “For organizations with both exempt and nonexempt populations, is it permissible for an employer to have different time off policies for the respective populations? For example, to design an unlimited vacation policy for the exempts and a paid time off policy for the nonexempts? And if yes, would it be advisable to have two different employee handbooks by classification where such policies would be different, or maintain one handbook with the different policies identified by classification?” – Crystal, Minnesota

Is it lawful to retroactively delete accrued vacation time?


Q: “If a vacation policy is changed for the current year to no longer carry time over, can the company legally take away time that had been carried over the years?” – Amanda, Ohio

Should employers have new hires sign a HIPAA privacy notice?

Q: “Should employers have new hires sign a HIPAA privacy notice? From what I’ve read, the Privacy Rule does not apply to the actions of an employer.” – Anonymous, Minnesota

We don’t pay for holidays during a probationary period–but what if the employee is exempt?


Q: “I hired an exempt employee who signed a 90-day probation sheet which says she does not get sick leave or paid holidays during that time. Do I still have to pay her for holidays since she is exempt? She is still on probation.” – Sandra, Texas