Susan Lessack

Q. Our CEO just implemented a new employee evaluation goal that calls for employees to do charitable volunteer work throughout the year. The more they volunteer, the higher the points they receive on their review, ultimately increasing their salaries. Can we do this without risk?

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Q. Can we legally open all mail delivered to employees at the office? What if it is stamped “confidential,” can we still open it? This is getting to be a problem because our mailroom opens all mail automatically.

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Q. On our applications, can we include a question that asks if applicants are related to any current employees?

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Q. An employee who’s been employed since May is out on workers’ comp and will be for a while. Do I send her FMLA paperwork even though she hasn’t met the criteria of being employed for at least a year? It’s my understanding that I should send it to everyone who requests leave, and only after they return the paperwork should I determine if the person is, in fact, eligible.

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Q. We’ve started requiring employees to repay (through payroll deduction) training costs if they quit or are fired within one year. Are we OK legally?

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Q. An employee says our drug testing program violates his constitutional rights. What can I tell him to prove that we’re well within the law?

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Q. How should we compensate an hourly employee for an out-of-town, two-day (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) seminar? In particular, should we pay for the hours during the overnight hotel stay, since the employee must sleep there to be ready for the next day’s session?

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Q. We’ve reduced the salaries of our exempt employees and told them to work only 36 hours each week. Still, however, many of those employees continue to work 40 or more hours per week. Exempt employees feel uncomfortable documenting 36 hours, when, in actuality, they’ve worked many more hours than that. Should we ask exempt employees to document hours that are not necessarily true?

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Q. Can we require an employee who is out on FMLA leave to use accrued paid time off if he or she is receiving disability payments?

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Imagine this nightmare scenario: You’ve contracted with a vendor to enter personnel data into a new computer system, including employees’ Social Security numbers, addresses, names of dependents, health records and bank account routing numbers. Then the vendor notifies you that employee data was somehow stolen or lost. What do you do?

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