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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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