1. 'Permanent employee'
"Employment at-will" is the rule in most states. That means you can fire an employee at any time, for any reason (except an unlawful one), as long as you don't promise a job for a specific period of time. But many managers don't realize that labeling someone a "permanent employee" essentially promises a job for life, or at least until retirement age, and can destroy this at-will status.
Managers often make the mistake of referring to employees as "permanent employees" when the employee passes their probationary period. Advice: Start using the term "regular employee."
Use the term "layoff" only when you end an employment relationship due to lack of work. If you end the relationship for any other reason, call it a "discharge."
Can this little word become a big deal? You bet. For example, if the unemployment office is told the employee was "laid off," even though you fired him for stealing, the employee could be deemed eligible for unemployment compensation ... a part of which your company may have to pay. Even more costly is misusing the term when dealing with a government agency investigating a discrimination charge.
3. 'Independent contractor'
The consequences of improperly classifying an employee as an independent contractor can be huge, including large back-pay awards, workers' compensation, tax liabilities and employment discrimination rulings.
But simply labeling someone an independent contractor won't cut the mustard. Determining a worker's status as an "independent contractor" or "employee" hinges on various factors. Most important: degree of control. The more control you exert over the person's schedule and duties, the more likely he'll be deemed an employee.
Managers often fail to classify employees accurately as "exempt" or "nonexempt" when determining who is eligible for overtime pay. (Exempt workers are not eligible for overtime, nonexempts are.) The government has rules, albeit confusing ones, that try to help you decide which bucket to put each worker in. (Find details at www.dol.gov/elaws/esa//screen75.asp.)
When determining exempt or nonexempt status, look at the actual work performed by the employee, not her title. Also, just because a person is paid by salary doesn't mean she's automatically exempt.
Is an employee who qualifies for short-term disability insurance or workers'considered "disabled"? Is an employee who has frequent migraine headaches disabled? Depending on the facts presented, the answer could be yes or no.
Unfortunately, there is no laundry list of medical conditions that qualify as disabilities under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. If an employee qualifies as disabled, your company must make "reasonable accommodations" for that disability, which may include anything from new furniture to a new schedule.
Advice: Don't guess at whether an em-ployee is disabled. Consult your HR department or attorney. Another good source: www.eeoc.gov/ada/adahandbook.html.
Also, don't informally refer to a worker as "disabled" until you have the facts. Federal law says that if you perceive an employee to be disabled, the law covers him.
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