The HR Specialist

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You must be prepared to show that you treated each and every employee equally when it comes to discipline. Otherwise, you may find yourself in the same situation as, in the following case, an employer that couldn’t recall how it had disciplined a white employee for violating an attendance rule, but fired a black employee for the same infraction …

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No doubt, your organization has an employee handbook. You may even have helped draft it or agonized over the amount of money you paid a law firm to create or review it. But one thing is certain—having a handbook won’t do you any good if no one in the company uses it …

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Q. During the busiest period of the year, a veteran employee asked for time off to attend her nephew’s graduation. After being turned down, she called in sick on graduation day. Is this considered insubordination? And how should we handle this situation? …

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Q. Is it illegal for managers to change the time sheets of employees—either exempt or nonexempt—if they neglect to indicate a day off, etc.? …

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The Pregnancy Discrimination Act prohibits discrimination against pregnant women and those who may become pregnant. It also makes it illegal to retaliate against these women. In an interesting twist, the actual ability to become pregnant isn’t particularly relevant as long as the employee who claims discrimination can show her employer thought she might become pregnant …

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Q. At a recent office get-together, two members of my staff announced they were officially dating. Our company has a strict policy that prohibits dating between a supervisor and a direct subordinate, but our handbook is silent as to relationships such as this one between co-workers. Are there any steps I should take to protect the company from liability? …

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Q. Our business has recently started staying open on certain national holidays, including Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. One of our employees was adamant that he was entitled to “holiday pay” for the time he worked on Thanksgiving, which he maintained was equal to 150% of his normal wage, even though he was not entitled to overtime that week. Do we have to pay a premium wage to employees who work on a federal holiday? …

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Q. My employee, who is a union member, has a nonwork-related injury that requires a six-week absence from work. In the meantime, she is receiving $300 per week through a union trust fund that provides her and other covered union members with short-term disability benefits. She also has requested and was placed on FMLA leave. We’d like her to substitute any unpaid FMLA leave with paid leave, which is our usual company policy when someone is out on FMLA leave. Is there a problem with doing this in this situation?

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When was the last time you read your company’s harassment reporting procedures? Could all employees in your organization understand how—and with whom—to file a complaint? It’s important to ask these questions in the wake of a new court ruling that should give you incentive to cut the legalese and confusion out of your reporting procedures …

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