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Carl Crosby Lehmann

Q. As a cost-saving measure, our company reduced the salaries of exempt employees by 10%. Employees get their salaries regardless of the number of hours they work. We have always asked our employees, though, to fill out a time sheet on which they write down 40 hours every week. Now we will ask them to record just 36 hours on this time sheet. Any problems with this?

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Q. An employee sent a companywide e-mail inviting employees to attend a morning prayer and Bible study prior to work that will be held on the company premises. Do we have to allow this (or do we have to shut it down)?

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Q. We had to terminate an employee for failure to adequately perform his job responsibilities. Can we deny him the COBRA subsidy because the termination was not a layoff or a result of the economy?

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Q. We have an employee out of work due to a workers’ compensation injury. Does the employee’s time off count against his FMLA leave?

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Approximately 3 million doses of the vaccines designed to prevent the H1N1 flu virus—swine flu—shipped last week. Local health authorities are preparing to offer vaccines as early as this week. Can you—should you?—demand that your employees get flu shots?

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Q. Last year an employee explained an absence by referring to his rights under Minnesota law to attend school activities. What exactly do Minnesota laws say about a parent’s right to be away from work because of school activities or to take care of children?

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Q. An HR colleague told me that government agencies have stepped up their scrutiny of independent contractor relationships. She said employers that have such relationships, or routinely have consultants working alongside employees, should beware. Can you shed any light on this report? What should we do?

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Q. We recently offered employees the opportunity to participate in an early retirement program, and several employees elected to take us up on the offer. Are they eligible for the new 65% COBRA subsidy?

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Q. After repeatedly warning an employee about her poor performance, we recently terminated her. At the termination meeting, she complained for the first time that she felt she’d been held to higher standards based on her gender. She has now filed for unemployment benefits. While we don’t think she’s entitled to the benefits, we wonder whether it makes sense to fight her claim. What do you think?

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Q. I have heard about a new federal law that makes it possible for a nonemployee to sue our company for discrimination. Is that correct? How could such a claim come up and is there anything we can do about it?

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