The HR Specialist

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires employers to compensate employees for any time spent on the job that benefits the employer. There are, however, some exceptions. For example, if employees use their own time to study materials that will qualify them for promotions, that time generally doesn’t have to be paid.

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There’s no law that says employers must use a progressive discipline system—but that’s no reason not to. In fact, using progressive discipline is one of the best ways to fight frivolous discrimination claims …

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One of the most popular litigation tactics these days starts with an employee filing a discrimination complaint. Then the employee—and her attorneys—sit back and wait to see what happens. If the employer somehow punishes the employee, the attorneys add a second count to the lawsuit: retaliation …

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Words are easy to misconstrue. Depending on who’s listening, the same sentence could mean at least two different things. This is one of the things that keeps lawyers employed. It’s also the reason it’s crucial to prepare accurate notes about any meeting in which managers are discussing whether to terminate …

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 Q. We have a question regarding FMLA leave following the birth of a child. One of our employees is pregnant. She has recently immigrated to the United States. She has informed us that she expects to take eight weeks of FMLA leave immediately after the child is born. Then after a few months, she would like to return to her home country to visit with family for a month. In other words, she wants to split up FMLA leave into an eight-week period and a four-week period. Can FMLA leave for a new child be split up in this fashion? …

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Q. It has been our company’s policy to maintain health insurance coverage for the families of employees who are serving in Iraq. It has recently come to our attention that one such family includes a spouse who is working, and the spouse has declined health insurance coverage at her job because we have been providing it free of charge. I have been asked whether we have an ongoing obligation to provide for this family’s health insurance coverage while our employee is on leave to serve in the military …

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Q. We have a two-story building with production operations on the first floor and administrative offices on both the first and second floors. There is no elevator in the building. An office employee who works in a department on the second floor has been off work for a back injury. Now he wants to return to work but cannot climb the stairs. Do we have to reassign the employee to the first floor? There is no available space there, and the employee’s work duties are on the second floor …

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Employees who work on a commission basis and are fired often look to their compensation agreements to find any possible way they can claim additional commissions. Their first stop after the unemployment office is often an attorney, who will go over the compensation agreement with a fine-toothed comb to see whether there is more money to be had …

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If you’re having absenteeism problems, consider instituting a policy that says an employee who exceeds an absence threshold will be automatically terminated—regardless of the reason. Such a policy can cover absences relating to personal or vacation leave, time off covered by workers’ comp and even FMLA leave …

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