Michael Fox

Q. I am worried that some of my employees are storing illicit or illegal items at work. Is there a way for me to legally search their belongings?

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Q. What should I look for in a workplace wellness program for our company?

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Q. I own and run a paper company in Texas. Some of my employees who are cigarette smokers regularly take more breaks than the two, 15-minute breaks that are allowed under their employment contract—and some of the nonsmokers in the office are getting angry. When I confront the smokers about this conduct, I am increasingly hearing them make an unusual claim—that they have a “disability” and are protected by law. What should I do?

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Q. A supervisor recently told me that some of my employees are planning to picket outside one of my businesses. Apparently, the picketers plan to block the building’s two exits with their vehicles in addition to picketing. Is this lawful?

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Q. I am assistant HR director for a small company that uses independent contractors as well as full- and part-time employees. In my role, I must ensure that these workers are accurately classified as either employees or contractors, and that my company fully complies with federal and state tax and labor laws. What is out there to assist me in accurately classifying the workers performing services for our firm?

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Q. May an employee substitute paid leave for unpaid FMLA leave?

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Q. I am the owner of a security services company. One of my rank-and-file employees is currently on leave from work under the FMLA. Due to an economic downturn, I have been forced to reduce the number of shifts available to my employees. If there is no longer a shift available for this employee when he returns from FMLA leave, am I be required to find or create a shift for him?

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Q. A few of my employees have been summoned to appear in court for jury duty service and to act as witnesses in trials. Is there any way that I can prohibit them from serving? And if I can’t, am I required to pay them during their service?

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Q. The company that I own has been in business since 1930. We recently performed an assessment of positions and salaries and discovered that our male executives are paid higher salaries than female counterparts. Are we liable for any unfair business practices?

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Q. As the owner of a Texas company, I want to institute a policy that strictly forbids employees from bringing guns to work—both into the office building and in the parking lot outside. Can I legally draft such a policy?

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