John Wilcox, Moderator

Question: “As classes start up again this fall, we’re looking at how much we
spend to reimburse employees for college and technical courses they
take. Senior management is happy to offer this benefit, but we wonder
what’s the standard for:

  • “How much (on a percentage basis) we should reimburse.
  • “The kinds of courses we should offer to reimburse.

“What do your policies say? Are there other issues to consider as we review our policy?” – Gerry, Indianapolis

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Question: “After we hired someone, we found out that she had a snake tattoo down
her arm. Plus, she’s now wearing a tongue ring which she did not have
in when we interviewed her. My question is: Can we ask her to remove
the tongue piercing during working hours and wear a long sleeve blouse
or sweater to cover the tattoo while she is at work?” – Faye, PA

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Question: “It’s back-to-school time, which means a lot of parents in our plant
are going to need to take time off for various school-related
activities. Trouble is, we’re in a relatively small community and most
of our kids go to the same schools, which means everybody needs time
off at the same time. Any suggestions on how to handle this so we can
keep our plant running smoothly and be good parents?” – A.G., Alabama

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Question: “I’m in desperate need of some way to explain the concept of exempt and
nonexempt employees to top management in my company. I know there are
strict legal definitions, but I wish someone would come up with an
informative shorthand description of the difference between the two
categories. I also need a way to impress on management the importance
of carefully distinguishing between exempt and nonexempt status. Any
advice?” — Ron C., Oklahoma

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Question: “How can I persuade our employees to take the leave FMLA was designed
to provide? Short surgeries, family situations, and even new
fathers—these are all situations in which employees have chosen to use
vacation time instead of FMLA entitlements. The most common reasoning
is ‘I want to save it in case of a real emergency.’ Any advice for
making the case for FMLA?” — Elaine A., Florida

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Question: “We have an employee who is nearing 80 years old. His performance is
slipping to the point where he creates more work than he accomplishes.
Is there an alternative to increasingly harsh evaluations and eventual
termination? We’d like the employee to depart with dignity, but there
are no indications toward that end.” — J.P., Arizona

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Question: “Does anyone have a formal policy preventing employees from using
vacation/paid time off leave in the time between announcing their
resignation and the actual quitting day? It can be really hard to do
the necessary “knowledge dump”  if the person spends much of his or her
final two weeks on vacation. What policies do you set?” — C.P. Cotter, Colorado

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Question: We’re a small manufacturing firm with fewer that 50 employees. It’s
getting harder to find qualified people, so I’m advocating a stepped up
training program. Management is balking at the cost. We currently spend
a little over 1% of payroll on training. I think we should at least
spend 2% and preferably more. Am I off base? How can I make the case? – Carol C., Oregon

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Question: “I’m a college student considering a career in HR. What kinds of
courses should I take to prepare myself for this career path? What
courses do you wish you had taken when you were in college? Is there a
preferred major?” – M.A., California

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Question: “I’m sympathetic with employees who have to juggle work with child care
responsibilities. I know it’s tougher in the summer, when school is out
and camp and daycare schedules don’t always work out conveniently. But
I’m getting tired of children being around the office, even when it’s
just for a while in the morning and afternoon. It’s a constant
low-grade distraction. I’d like to create a policy that says “no kids
at work, ever.” Any suggestions on how to do this?” – Luke, Vermont

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