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Ask the Attorney Archives

‘I need to take an FMLA day’–how do we confirm it’s valid?

Q: “When I have approved intermittent leave and an employee then calls in to the supervisor and says something like ‘I need to take an FMLA day,’ what can I do legally to get proof they are really sick for the reason listed on the certification?” – Melissa, Oklahoma

What suffices as a reasonable accommodation for prayer?

Q: “What is the appropriate location for an employee who is Muslim requesting accommodations to pray during working hours? Would the location be much the same as what is offered to nursing mothers?” – Ernesdean, North Dakota

Can we offer a break on health insurance premiums to some workers but not others?


Q: “We understand that we can offer different health care arrangements to different classes of employees. Specifically, can we provide different premium contributions to different employees, if there is a business reason to do so (to retain management, for example)?” – Joanne, Oklahoma

Is online training ever non-compensable?


Q: “Can an employer require training online and not reimburse for the time spent?” – Kelly, Florida

Can we refuse to allow employees to travel the way they wish?

Q: “Every year we send our sales staff to a couple of trade shows, mainly in Las Vegas. We book the flights and lodgings, pay mileage to and from the airport, pay for all meals and all hours worked at the trade show, plus overtime. We reimburse for any incidental expenses that may be incurred by the employees. Our ‘star’ employee prefers to drive next time instead of flying; this would mean an extra expense for our small company (for the longer travel time, extra meals, extra lodging and extra mileage). When we said no, everyone is flying, the employee replied that he would drive on his own dime. We do need this employee at the trade show, but it is not cost-efficient for us. I just want to make sure that we are not violating any labor laws by saying everyone must fly to this particular show (due to the distance), with no exceptions.”  – Nora, Wyoming

How do we phrase a job ad so we don’t discriminate against foreign-born workers?


Q: “I have a client with 40 employees that is not able to offer sponsorship to any candidate who is not legally able to work in the United States. I understand that we cannot put ‘Prefer US citizen or authorized to work in the U.S.’ on a job ad, but is there any means that we can use to alert candidates to the requirements?” – Anne, District of Columbia

Will combining sick leave and vacation leave lead to a termination pay problem?


Q: “In North Carolina, it is my understanding that employers are required to pay out any vacation earned and not used, but not sick leave. We have PTO which is intended to be used for both vacation and sick leave. Can I have a policy included in our handbook that at termination, employees can be paid out a maximum of, say, 10 of the 15 days they earn?” – Anonymous, North Carolina

Same employee, different work–are different pay rates OK?

Q: “Is it legal to pay an employee to ‘volunteer’ at a company event at a lower rate than what we typically pay them? The event is a conference where staff would be manning a booth, answering questions, giving out information, etc.  – Yari, Illinois

Employee takes FMLA leave, but wants to keep up with union duties–must we allow it?


Q: “Should our company permit an employee (also a union steward) who is granted time off under FMLA to continue to come to the workplace to perform union duties?” – Kathie, Pennsylvania

When is travel time to work compensable?

Q: “Our employee’s workday begins at a site location, which could be an hour or more from home, and there is no other “corporate office” location. It is my understanding that travel time to work (wherever that may be) is not compensable. Is there any instance in which this is not true? For example, a very long distance from home?” – Anonymous, North Carolina