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Q&A

Test for illegal drugs OK under ADA

11/01/2000

Q. Our company wants to begin screening applicants for illegal drugs. Can we make job offers conditional on the results of a drug test? —K.P., Louisiana

Iron out union, legal issues

11/01/2000

Q. We have an apparent conflict between our union agreement and our responsibility to maintain a harassment-free workplace. The agreement says we must give the shop steward 48 hours’ notice before dismissing a regular employee. But we have proof positive that two employees have been harassing—and continue to harass—African-American and gay employees. The two harassers have just caused us to lose a good employee who couldn’t take it any longer. What trumps what? —J.V., Louisiana

Sweeten deal when asking staff to sign noncompetes

10/01/2000

Q. Can I ask employees who are already with the company to execute noncompete agreements? —L.T., Georgia

Check arbitration pacts against these standards

10/01/2000

Q. To hold down litigation costs and resolve disputes faster, we’re thinking about requiring employees to sign arbitration agreements that would make them arbitrate employment disputes instead of going to court. Are these agreements legal? —C.R., California

Extra travel time counts as work time

10/01/2000

Q. One of our executives will be making day trips once a week to New York from Washington, D.C., for a special assignment, and her secretary will be accompanying her. The secretary’s regular workday is 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The trips will require the secretary to arrive at the airport by 7:30 a.m., and she’ll be back in Washington by 8 p.m. Do we have to compensate the nonexempt secretary for her travel time to and from New York? —L.L., Washington, D.C.

Pitch old records with care

10/01/2000

Q. How long is a company supposed to keep paper records? We’d like to throw out some of our old, archived paperwork. —B.H., Pennsylvania

Trade-Secret clauses aren’t necessary for all workers

09/01/2000

Q. To protect my business’s trade secrets, do I need to have all my employees sign employment contracts that include a trade-secret clause? —K.R., Michigan

Waiver protection is limited

09/01/2000

Q. Many of my former employees want me to provide post-employment references, but I’m afraid of liability. Can I ask them to sign a release giving me permission to provide references that would absolve me from any liability? —A.K., Virginia

Go the distance to deliver final paycheck

09/01/2000

Q. Over the last six months, we have made several attempts to mail a former employee her last paycheck by certified mail. We believe that we have the correct address because we mailed her other items by regular mail during this period and none have been returned. What legal obligations do we have, if any, to get this check to her? —R.Y., Washington, D.C.

Don’t rely on written policy to prevent harassment

09/01/2000

Q. Our company is considering anti-harassment training for all employees. Some individuals are concerned that it will stir up lawsuits. Do you recommend such training? —J.R., Maine