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Susan Lessack

Q. We run a carry-out/catering kitchen. Can we legally tell all our employees and customers that they can’t smoke on the property?

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Q. One of our employees was badly injured when he tripped over equipment that had been left by our office building’s maintenance workers. Workers’ comp covered his medical bills and lost wages, but he also sued the building’s owners for negligence. Now we have a letter from the owners demanding that we defend them in the lawsuit and telling us we are responsible. How can that be? I thought we were protected by workers’ comp.

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Q. One of our employees constantly twists around everything I say to make the situation seem worse than it is. For example, when I put her paycheck on the counter because she was busy, she told others that I threw it at her. She has lied about many incidents. I have spoken with her several times and indicated that her actions are unprofessional and disrespectful. This is not good for my reputation. I need a solution about how to deal with this employee.

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Q. We fired a part-time employee for stealing a gift card out of the trash. We have a policy against taking anything of value out of the garbage. The next day, his supervisor announced to everyone that the employee had been fired for theft. I don’t think it was appropriate to tell others the reason. Was it? And what should we say if someone calls for a reference?

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Q. We have a salaried employee who holds down a second job. Sometimes, she leaves early on Fridays and comes in late on Mondays because the second job overlaps with our office hours. Can we deduct anything from her pay after she has used up her vacation and leave time? Or do we have to pay her even though she leaves early and comes in late?

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Q. I work for a nonprofit agency. We plan to start using an agency credit card. We need a policy that covers who can use the card and when, plus some other things I haven’t thought of yet. What should the policy include?

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Q. An employee left work on a Monday due to an illness. She called in sick Tuesday and Wednesday, but we heard nothing on Thursday or Friday. Our policy calls for termination if the employee doesn’t contact us within three days. We posted her job on Friday and decided to terminate her. On Monday, her fiancé called to tell us she was pregnant and had complications that led to a hospital visit. We got a note from her obstetrician saying she’d been examined, but not indicating when she could return. What should we do to avoid any legal fallout?

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Q. I have a question about capping employees’ salaries when they reach the top of the pay scale. I’m concerned because the only employees affected are those with many years of service and who happen to be over age 40. Have we made a legal error? Some of the affected employees are angry and have mentioned discrimination based on the residual effect of the cap?

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Q. We plan to give gasoline gift cards to employees as incentives for picking up additional shifts. Are these cards taxable? Can we, the employer, simply pay the employees’ portion of the taxes?

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Q. We’re cleaning up our personnel files and updating emergency contact information. Some employees don’t want to provide their contact information. Is it legal for us to require them to give it to us?

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