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Ask the Attorney Archives

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

What sort of DOL and OSHA training must we offer for government contractors?


Q: We have government contract locations throughout the US. What is the minimum required DOL and OSHA training to cover all these? Can it be Web-based? How often is a refresher required? – Bill, Texas

How do we pay our employees for both conference travel as well as time spent there?


Q: I am working on updating our policies and I think we are overcompensating for traveling to conferences. This is what we have been doing: The conference starts on Sunday, so we travel on Saturday. Our normal working hours are Monday through Friday from 8:00 to 4:00. The week before the conference, I give the employees a day and a half off, 10 to 12 hours. Then I give the employees a day off after the conference. I do this to make sure they are not working over 40 hours in a workweek. We count the time from when they leave their home until they reach their hotel rooms in the conference city, the hours they are in class and the hours traveling to their homes. We also take day trips 50 miles away for training on occasion. We pay for the travel time to the training, from the training and their meal. Can you give me some guidance on this issue? – Stephanie, Wyoming

What are our obligations to tell workers and visitors they’re being watched?


Q: We recently installed cameras in the production areas of our plant. These cameras aren’t hidden, and it is common knowledge that the cameras were installed. Do I need to post something out front notifying people who enter the building that is it under video surveillance? Do I need to have my employees sign something stating that they understand this? – Brad, Idaho

Can we fire someone for not signing off on our policy manual?


Q: We just updated our employee policies and procedures manual and are asking them to sign a standard acknowledgement of receipt form. My question is: If some employees refuse to sign it, is it grounds for termination? Or, can we tell them not to report to work. as they have not complied with a requirement? Or should we just document they refused to sign? – Jay, California

Can we lower an employee’s pay rate so as not the break the overtime bank?


Q: We have a full time (40 hours/wk) employee who has worked for us for 10+ years. He would like to work additional hours, and we would not like to pay overtime based upon his current wage. Is it possible for the employee to voluntarily (as evidenced by a letter acknowledging the new wage and overtime hours) accept a new lower wage so that the overtime rate is more manageable? – Tony, Florida

Does the transport of supplies mean we have to pay interoffice commuters?


Q: We are having some issues with travel time and pay with some of our employees. There are employees that leave one office, with supplies, and then go to another office the next day, which is 40 minutes away, with those same supplies. What is the correct way to pay them for this? – Ashely, North Carolina

The employee is gone, but so is our property–can we withhold the PTO balance?


Q: Can an employer withhold an employee’s PTO balance upon termination for failure to return company property such as a badge, access card, etc.? – Nichelle, Tennessee

Is a probationary employee entitled to holiday pay?


Q: While an employee is within the 90-day probationary period, is an employer required to offer holiday pay? Can the employer exclude this and start paying for the holidays only after the probationary period is complete? – Pam, Ohio