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  • HR Specialist: Employment Law
  • The HR LAW Weekly
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Can repeated, petty complaints to HR be considered some form of harassment?

Q. A more senior employee was recently passed over for a promotion because a newer employee is clearly more qualified. Now that this person is their boss, the more senior employee has filed several petty complaints against her. Although we are aware that these complaints are completely invalid, we in HR have to take it seriously. But it is a shame for the new supervisor to have the complaints piling up in her file. Is this considered harassment?

What’s the current mileage reimbursement rate?

Q. Some of my construction employees must drive their personal cars to and from various work sites during work hours. Am I required to reimburse these employees for the miles they drive during this travel? If so, what is the amount per mile?

Can we make employees pay for new uniforms?

Q. We had to provide an employee with a replacement uniform shirt after he lost the one we gave him when he was hired. Can we require him to pay for this replacement by taking it out of his pay?

Must we provide a place where our customers can pray?

Q. A customer was in our sales showroom in the process of purchasing merchandise when he asked his sales person to provide him with space where he could pray while the sales person finalized the paperwork. Our sales person was surprised by the request but ended up providing the customer with an empty office. Do we need to accommodate a similar request in the future? We would, of course, accommodate a prayer request from one of our employees. But we have concerns with leaving a customer unattended in our office area.

When new employee quits, can we deduct vacation time she took but never earned?

Q. We permit our employees to take two weeks of advanced vacation before accruing vacation hours. When an employee takes advanced vacation, we typically reduce the employee’s negative vacation balance as the employee later accrues vacation. Unfor­­tu­­nately, we recently had an employee quit before accruing sufficient vacation time to correct her outstanding balance. May we deduct the negative balance from her final paycheck?

Where in Texas do ‘ban the box’ laws apply?

Q. I have been hearing a lot about “ban the box” laws lately—measures that limit when inquiry or investigation may be made into the criminal history of a job applicant. I am worried about how these laws could affect my business. To what extent has Texas adopted such policies, and could they endanger my company?

Can we require owner-employees of a business we’re buying to sign noncompete agreements?

Q. My company is in the process of purchasing a small printing business, and we plan to retain several of the owner-employees of the acquired business. As a part of the purchase-and-sale agreement, we would like to take steps to protect our customer base by restricting the competitive activities of the owner-employees for five years. Additionally, we are interested in restricting the activities of an employee who is not a party to the transaction, but is married to one of the owners of the business. May we do so? What are some basics about noncompete agreements?

Can we collect insurance premiums from employee who was out on FMLA leave?

Q. One of our employees recently returned from FMLA leave. Before he left, the method in which he would pay his share of health insurance premiums was never decided. It’s been two months now and the employee hasn’t mentioned it or attempted to pay us back. What can we do to collect the premium?

Can we discipline an ‘early clocker?’

Q. One of our part-time employees has been warned repeatedly about clocking in earlier than she’s supposed to, sometimes more than an hour early. We know that we have to pay her for any hours worked, but what can we legally do to get her to work only the hours set for her position? Also, can we reprimand a co-worker that has been clocking in for her?

What kind of access must I allow employees who want to see their personnel records?

Q. One of my employees recently asked me, in person, if she could view her personnel records. What does California law require?