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Ask the Attorney Archives

Do our dealings with federal contracts obligate us to advertise all positions externally?

Q: I have a question about employment advertising. Our headquarters office is in Texas. We have multiple U.S. government contracts, and some (non-government) commercial contracts. Are we required to advertise openings externally if hiring for positions within our headquarters office that are not directly billed to government contracts? – William, Texas

Can we change our workers’ hours without negotiating with their union?


Q: We reviewed employee efficiency and we saw that we could decrease some of the employees’ hours from eight per day to six per day. Do we have to bargain with their union to reduce some employee hours, or can we just notify the union? – Jay, California

Are we permitted to compute overtime across multiple days?

Q: For nonexempt employees working in California, what is the correct calculation for hours including overtime? If an employee works four hours on Monday, and 11 hours on Tuesday, should she get paid 12 hours straight and three OT, or should she get 15 straight (because it was makeup time)? – James, California

How do we terminate an employee who is medically unable to produce?


Q: About six months ago, one of our office staff had a stroke. She was off for about three months and returned to work two days a week for two hours each day. She is very limited in what she can do. The company has continued to pay for her health care even though she is not working full-time. The company can no longer hold this position, as she is not able to perform her duties. At this point it does not seem as though she will ever be able to return to work full-time or for more than four hours a week. How does the company terminate her without any repercussions?  – Marian, Pennsylvania

What can we ask an applicant about his record on the road?


Q: Is it lawful in Illinois to ask about a person’s driving record (accidents and violations) on the job application? – Paula, Illinois

Does a training session put a worker into overtime?


Q: In California, if I schedule a training session that leads to an employee going beyond the eight-hour workday or 40-hour workweek, is it considered overtime? – Rey, California

Is there any hidden legal obligation to award annual raises?


Q:  Is it mandatory to give employees a raise at the end of the year? – Berenice, Florida

Can we deduct pay if workers go beyond their PTO allotment?


Q: We have an exempt employee who is out of PTO for 2013. I was led to believe we can deduct (from their pay) any hours the employee takes off for personal time if they are out of PTO. (We have a PTO policy in place stating employees who are out of PTO may be granted personal time off without pay.) Are we handling this correctly? If we are not able to deduct hours, what is the recommended way to handle these situations? – Anonymous, Wisconsin

Sure, our employee is at-will–but can we fire him just because he might have a dark side?


Q: We had an employee call out for one day recently because he had been arrested on a domestic violence charge. He did not violate any attendance policy, and we’re not sure if or when there will be a trial. This man has long been rumored in the office to be an abuser, and the police have been called to his home on several occasions. Though he’s an at-will employee, can we realistically fire him if he’s broken none of our rules? – Paul, Florida

Work dried up during maternity leave: Can we terminate?


Q: One of our employees is on maternity leave, normally working part time for our billing department. When she left, we assigned someone else to her job, and now the status in our office has changed and there is lack of work for her because we lost a large customer for whom she provided billing services. The question is, do I have to bring her back? If I do not, can I let her go? – Doreen, New Jersey