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Q&A

Does Minnesota’s smoking ban law include employees’ use of ‘e-cigarettes’?

10/10/2013
Q. We have a no-smoking policy that complies with Minnesota’s smoking ban. A number of employees have asked if our policy applies to electronic cigarettes or “e-cigarettes.” We are not sure what to tell them. Must we ban the use of the e-cigarettes in the workplace? Are we allowed to if we want to?

Are we allowed to ask questions about an applicant’s family medical history?

10/10/2013
Q. We make offers to applicants contingent on passing a physical examination. As a part of the examination the doctor asks for a medical history, including questions about the applicant’s family medical history. We have heard that we should not ask about the applicant’s family medical history, but we aren’t sure if that’s true. Should we not ask for this information?

We suspect domestic abuse: How do we proceed?

10/09/2013
Q. A young employee comes to work often with visible bruises. Last week she had a black eye. She always has a ready excuse. Her husband calls her frequently, sometimes 10 times a day. Several staff have come to me voicing concern that she may be getting abused. Her accuracy level is decreasing and she’s starting to miss work more often. Can I legally approach her and offer resources for battered women?

What rules must we follow if we must lay off work-visa employees?

10/02/2013
Q. Do we have any duties or obligations if we discharge employees who are in the United States on work visas?

Can we require overtime work?

10/02/2013
Q. When our business gets busy, is it legal for us to require our nonexempt employees to work overtime on occasion?

What should we do about executive’s offer of special leave allotment?

09/30/2013
Q. The daughter of one of our executive assistants was recently diagnosed with an illness that will require extensive treatment. Her boss offered her “a few extra weeks of paid vacation” to care for her daughter. He told her this before HR had an opportunity to talk to her about options for time off. We don’t think the special treatment would be received well by staff outside of the executive wing. Do we have to provide what he promised even if it’s against company policy? Is it even legal?

What are the rules on paying for time spent putting on protective gear?

09/30/2013
Q. Our company policy states that employees are not compensated for the time spent changing into their uniforms, which includes special protective wear. A new employee was surprised to find out he couldn’t clock in before getting geared up. Are we required to pay ­workers for that time, or is it up to the discretion of each individual company?

How can we make sure Halloween party costumes don’t cross the line?

09/27/2013
Q. We would like to throw a Halloween party for our employees during working hours. Many want to wear costumes. Should we have a costume dress code? We are worried some employees may go too far.

What legal issues affect workplace dress codes?

09/27/2013
Q. We have been contemplating developing a dress code. What kinds of legal issues do we need to consider?

What’s the law on surreptitious audiotaping?

09/27/2013
Q. One of the employees in our office has been taping conversations unknown to the people he is taping. Does the employee have a right to do this?