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Carl Crosby Lehmann

Q. We have an employee who has been out with a work-related back injury for more than six months. We have not received any indication from her doctor about when she will be able to return. Must we keep her on workers’ compensation leave status indefinitely? Do we have to indefinitely hold open her job?

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Q. We recently merged with a smaller company, taking on several new sales people. Most of our existing sales staff are long-time, loyal employees, so we haven’t previously used noncompete agreements. However, we’re now reconsidering this. Can we ­require all of our sales staff to sign noncompetes?

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Q. One of our employees recently posted a picture of himself on Facebook doing something inappropriate while wearing a T-shirt with our company logo on it. The inappropriate conduct didn’t occur at a work event, but we’re concerned that the T-shirt connects us to the conduct. We would like to fire him immediately, but we hesitate because the termination is based on his personal Facebook page.

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Q. One of our employees was recently accused of sending sexually harassing texts to another employee. The complaining employee said she was so upset by the texts she deleted them; the accused employee adamantly denies sending the texts. Can we search the accused employee’s cellphone or is there a way to retrieve the messages from the complaining employee’s phone?

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Q. We are having a hard time keeping discipline consistent between supervisors. To promote consistency, upper management would like to implement a new discipline policy setting out what disciplinary steps should be followed. Do you recommend this?

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Q. We’re expanding our marketing efforts over the next few months. Because we don’t have much time to go through a rigorous recruitment effort, we are considering hiring a number of people on a contractor basis. If they work out, we’ll then consider hiring them as employees. Can we do that?

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Q. Over the past few months I have been seeing more and more electronic cigarettes in our city. Last week, an employee walked into our office while smoking an electronic cigarette. I’d like to ban their use in our offices. I’ve heard that e-cigarettes are just as addictive as the real things.

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Q. We give our employees company phones. An employee recently resigned and turned in her phone to her supervisor, in compliance with our technology policy. A week later, it came to my attention that the supervisor had not deleted the departed employee’s email that was still on the phone. A new hire who had been issued the phone could read those messages. What should we do?

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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?

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Q. We operate several restaurants and have issues with customers who walk out without paying. We expect our ­servers to help prevent this and want to implement a program that makes servers responsible for these losses. May we deduct the amount of the shortage from employees’ gratuities instead of their wages?

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