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Ask the Attorney Archives

Can we recoup a worker’s earned but unused vacation time?


Q: “If an employee gets three weeks of vacation in January, and resigns in April, how much vacation time should be paid? I’m confused since the employee is salaried manager and would not get approved to take more than one week at a time.” – Pat, Pennsylvania

What are the rules of thumb for motor vehicle record background checks?

Q: “I am working on a motor vehicle record background check policy; any advice?” – Kholiwe, Georgia

How do we make it clear to this manager that he’s creating a hostile work environment?

Q: “I’ve been counseling a manager who refuses to take my advice and who I think could be headed for a hostile work environment charge. The manager ‘inherited’ an administrative assistant from his predecessor. She’s been there for 15 years; they’ve been working together for the last six. Everyone else loves her; she’s hardworking, efficient and has the best interests of the organization at heart. He refuses to talk with her when he goes past her desk to get to his office. He requires her to schedule a meeting, which he then blows off or cuts short. He complains she screws up his calendar, but he’s the one not showing up for meetings or rolling in late. He frequently asks her when she’s going to retire (she’s 63). What more can I do?” – Anonymous, Washington

Social workers: exempt or nonexempt?

Q: “When reviewing positions to see if they are exempt or nonexempt, I am having a hard time with social workers. I am unsure if they would be exempt under the Learned Professional category. Our agency has a number of social workers with different level degrees and certifications, so how can I be sure if they are exempt or nonexempt?” – Anonymous, New Jersey

How do we handle this health insurance switch-around?

Q: “An employee got a divorce, then canceled the ex-spouse’s health insurance, but they later got back together (though they did not remarry), and now the employee would like to add the ex-spouse back onto the health insurance policy. How do we handle this?” – M. Ward, Oklahoma

When a worker’s status changes, what happens to their health insurance?

Q: “How do we transition variable-hour employees from full-time to part-time and vice versa for health insurance?” – Jessica, Idaho 

Do doctor’s orders prevent us from firing someone?


Q: “Can an employer terminate employment as retaliation for an employee missing three days of work on doctor’s orders?” – HR Assistant, Texas

How do we pay this departing worker under California’s paid sick leave law?


Q: “We have chosen the up-front method for sick time in California. We have an employee who is leaving the company in two weeks. Is she entitled to all three days of sick time, or do we have the right to prorate it knowing she is leaving?” – Karen, California

Do raised voices raise legal concerns?

Q: “I need a legal perspective when it comes to yelling at subordinates. What laws, if any, allow someone in management to raise their voice out of frustration? How do courts view a subordinate’s actions when they raise their voice back in response? Can it be used as grounds for discipline, i.e. writing someone up for verbally attacking a manager, or unprofessional conduct by subordinate? Last but not least, what about a subordinate who has suffered prior verbal abuse (mental trauma) during childhood or thereafter, and made comments alleging this?” – Anonymous, Virginia

Are hours spent in company-paid evening classes considered overtime?


Q: “We have an employee who is currently considered exempt. However, when the new salary threshold goes into effect, he will be nonexempt. He is attending college classes during the day, and was hired upon the condition that he get a degree. The employer pays for his tuition. How are the hours he attends class handled when computing overtime? Since they are required, do they count toward his 40 hours per week?” – Susan, Tennessee