Fred Batten

Q. We employ the unwed parents of a newborn child. They have requested FMLA leave to care for their child after birth. Both parents are eligible for leave, but we would like to limit their leave to a combined total of 12 weeks during the 12-month leave period. Can two parents of the same newborn be limited to a combined total of 12 weeks of leave under the FMLA?

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Q. We have an employee who had been performing light-duty work for more than six months. We laid him off based on his seniority. Now he is receiving workers’ compensation benefits again. Our collective-bargaining agreement provides that an employee will lose seniority after being laid off for a year. Does the fact that our employee is receiving workers’ comp benefits have any effect on his seniority rights?

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Q. We recently had to discharge an employee for poor work performance. We are a relatively small company (70 employees) and don’t often fire people. Because of special circumstances that forced us to terminate the employee rather than try corrective action, we think it is very possible there will be some kind of litigation. Do you have any recommendations for what we should do or think about now, even before any lawsuit has been filed?

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Q. We are about to enter contract negotiations. In the past, we have always paid the members of the union bargaining committee for time spent in negotiations. However, we don’t have a contract provision addressing the issue. Are we required to pay union members for time spent in negotiations?

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Q. We are looking into an allegation of sexual harassment. According to the alleged victim, after she came forward, other employees began telling her they had similar problems with the alleged harasser. None of those incidents was ever reported. Must we expand our investigation to include the unreported incidents? Where do we draw the line?

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Q. I am a small employer. I invested a lot of money and time training a certain employee who just quit less than a year after I hired him. In the future, I would like to have all my employees sign an agreement stating that if they quit within a year, they will repay me at a rate of, say, $200 a month for the money I spent training them. Would this be OK?

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Q. We employ the unwed parents of a newborn child. They have requested FMLA leave to care for their child after birth. Both parents are eligible for leave, but we would like to limit their leave to a combined total of 12 weeks during the 12-month leave period. Can two parents of the same newborn be limited to a combined total of 12 weeks of leave under the FMLA?

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Q. A local college has asked our company to allow a student to work at one of our plants for credit this summer. The student would not be paid, which sounds like a great deal for the company. However, we are concerned about what would happen if the student were injured while interning. Would we be liable?

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Q. Is it true that someone now has to watch my employees give urine specimens as part of DOT drug and alcohol testing?

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Q. Our company is heading into union contract negotiations early this year, and I have been asked to organize the bargaining sessions. I know in the past we have bargained at a local hotel, but we always get stuck with the bill. Does the company have to pay for hotel conference rooms and the refreshments? This cost adds up over a period of weeks. What are the realistic options?

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