Susan Lessack

Many employers are deciding not to hire smokers, and still more are trying to limit employees’ use of tobacco. Companies are screening new hires for nicotine as a condition for employment, imposing higher health-benefit premiums for smokers and trying to help smokers quit. Policies run the gamut:

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Q. One of our full-time employees took time off when her husband had a heart attack. We’re a small company with 30 employees. Management was very upset and wouldn’t let her take any paid time off and wouldn’t guarantee her position. She had accumulated several weeks of paid leave. Is it legal to keep her from taking paid time off to care for her husband?

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Q. Is there a law that requires a 45-day waiting period from the time employees are told they’ll be laid off until they receive the severance payment? My supervisor said it’s called a cooling-off period.

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Q. We run FMLA and short-term disability (STD) concurrently. FMLA is for 12 weeks of job-protected leave. STD is for 26 weeks, with proper medical documentation. At what point can we terminate an employee?

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Q. Our company allows employees to purchase products on an installment basis. When employees leave and haven’t repaid the full amount, can we deduct the remainder due from their last paycheck?

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Are meal breaks mandatory?

by Susan Lessack on January 16, 2011 1:00am

in Human Resources

Q. Is it mandatory for a nonexempt employee to take at least a 20-minute meal break?

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Q. One of our salaried employees was picked for a grand jury. She’ll be away about one week per month. Do we have to pay her during jury duty? She will be checking in via BlackBerry daily.

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Today’s economic climate has caused employers to cut budgets and workforces—and expect workers to do more with less. As they see colleagues laid off and their employers cutting back, employees are more concerned than ever about their own job security. It makes sense for employers to address stress issues in their workforces, since increased stress affects not only employees, but employers’ bottom lines.

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Q. One of our employees has a sick parent who lives in another country. She wants FMLA leave to care for the parent. Is FMLA available under the circumstances? And how would I verify the authenticity of a foreign medical certification?

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Q. We have an hourly employee who consistently arrives late—about seven to 10 minutes each time. Can we cut her pay to the nearest quarter hour? We would, of course, pay her for staying later.

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