Power Tools & Tips For Workplace Leaders
Common HR Questions & Answers!
Q: We require employees to wear uniforms. Can we deduct the money from the employee's paycheck to buy and clean the uniforms?

A: You can, but with caution. Under federal law, the payroll deductions, whether for the uniform cost, cleaning or both, cannot reduce an employee's wages below the minimum wage. Similarly, the deductions cannot reduce the amount of overtime pay due to the employees in any workweek.

NOTE: Some states require employers to foot the bill for uniforms.
Q: We rarely post high-level management jobs internally. Must we post all jobs internally so that someone cannot file suit claiming "pre-selection" or that he or she never had a chance to apply?

A: While no law specifically requires that all vacant jobs be posted in a particular way, the failure to post vacancies internally opens the door to the "glass ceiling" discrimination claims. This is especially true if your practice has resulted in a homogeneous group of high-level managers. BOTTOM LINE: Cut the chances of lawsuits by regularly posting all job vacancies.

Q: An employer asked us for job verification on an employee we fired. It has a written consent form from the worker allowing the query. Can I release information regarding the ex-employee's history with us?

A: Yes, however from a liability perspective, your safest bet would be to provide nothing more than to verify the former employee's job, title, and dates of employment. Remember, any verification of employment or reference you provide (positive or negative) needs to be supported by evidence/internal documentation. So if you give additional information, make sure you can support it.

Q: Can we require an employee to receive psychological counseling or treatment if their behavior has become a hindrance to their job performance?

A: You cannot require employees to receive any medical treatment, psychological or otherwise, as a condition of continued employment. But you are not without recourse. Even if an employee is protected by the ADA (i.e., he or she has a mental condition that rises to the level of a "disability"), that employee is still subject to discipline, up to termination, if he or she violates your policies regarding misconduct.

FINAL TIP: Remember the "golden rules" of employee discipline: evenhanded enforcement and careful documentation.
Q: We have an employee who is going to be off work for eight weeks for a qualifying serious health condition. The employee is not requesting to use FMLA leave because they have enough paid sick leave. Can employees choose not to use FMLA leave even though they meet the qualifications? If they qualify for FMLA leave, can we require them use it whether they want to or not?

A: It is the employer's obligation to designate leave as FMLA qualifying whenever it becomes aware of an FMLA qualifying event. Your employees do not have the right to pick and choose when they want to use FMLA time, even if they have sick time or other forms of paid leave in their bank. (*See note below*) You should immediately designate this employee's eight weeks as FMLA time, to run concurrently with her paid sick leave. That way, they will only have four weeks of unpaid FMLA time remaining for the year after they use up their paid leave. You also should check your FMLA policy to make sure that it requires employees to use FMLA time concurrently with their sick time.

*Note: Court decisions currently allow employees in the 9th Circuit to decline FMLA coverage. That ruling is expected to be challenged.
Information provided by
The Alternative HR Team
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