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Ask the Attorney Archives

How do we save on exempt workers’ salaries during a time of diminished production?

Question: “If we have salaried employees that will be working from home, but cannot give us 40 hours worth of production in a week, can their salaries be docked? Should we make them contract employees during this period of time instead of keeping them as exempt salaried employees?” – Judy, Texas

Who calls the shots when an employee wants to self-isolate for coronavirus?

Q: “Can an employee simply state they are self-isolating, without a medical diagnosis, because they think they may have contracted COVID-19? Do we have to pay them while they self-isolate under the new rules?” – Anonymous, California

Does the EMFLA give us allowance to alter work schedules to save money?

Q: “If a remote worker cannot perform their job to full capacity because they have children at home, is it permissible to ask the employee to work shorter hours to accommodate their schedule, or are we required to pay them under the emergency FMLA (EMFLA) rules even though they don’t work a full day?” – Yvette, North Carolina

Covid self-isolation could break our business–do we have any recourse?

Q: “We are a small business of 35 employees, and every position is crucial. Can an employee simply state, ‘I think I have COVID, I will be self-isolating for 14 days?’ This is disruptive to us. Can we require a test and results before they take the 14 days?” – Q., California

What do we do when we’re lacking information about an employee’s Covid status?

Q:“I work in a pre-school environment. A parent contacted our agency yesterday and advised us that after dropping off child, she is self-quarantining. Her child and husband moved out. She will not say if she tested positive for COVID-19. Do we have to report to OSHA or CDC since we do not know if she tested positive or not?” – Clark, California

What can we ask concerning the nature of an employee’s medical care?

Q. If an employee has a note stating they’re under their doctor’s care and cannot return to the work for the foreseeable future, can the employer ask specific reasons why?

Who judges what a worker returning from injury can physically handle?

Q. We have a long-time older employee who has been out on workers comp since 8/20/19 due to an injury. The company has some concerns about potential risks in bringing this employee back to work. He has been released to full duty. Do we have to restore him to the same position, or can we legally offer him another position that will not be so physically challenging for him?

Is it legal to replace a religious holiday with a different day off?

Q: “Our firm has Rosh Hashanah on the firm holiday list. We realized this year that it falls on a Saturday and not Friday. The firm wants to stay open that day and remove the holiday from the list. This year, we gave the employees an unscheduled day off for Juneteenth. Can we take away the Rosh Hashanah day off this year?” – Ruth, New York

Can the right to overtime pay be waived by private agreement?

Q: “Can a board of county commissioners in South Dakota have a nonexempt employee sign a document to the effect that the employee would not ask for overtime pay or comp time off? The employee has agreed not to come back to the county in the future for any compensation. HR feels federal law supersedes this agreement.” – Tim, South Dakota

Who exactly is an ‘essential’ employer?

Q: “I cannot find a ‘definitive’ list of essential employers on the DOL site re: Covid. Is a commercial cleaning company (who sanitizes offices, etc., and has less than 50 employees) considered an essential employer? And, if so, are they exempt from the paid sick leave/FMLA mandate per FFCRA? But, they could take the option to pay employees the EPLSA (if for Covid reasons) and then qualify to take a tax credit for the amount of wages paid, yes?” – Ann, Texas