The HR Specialist

Q. I recently got a form in the mail, signed by a former employee, authorizing release of her personnel file to her attorney. Must I honor it? …

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Q. We recently received a subpoena to turn over an employee’s personnel file. The employee is a party to a lawsuit; the company is not. Do we have to comply? Should we tell the employee? …

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Q. What kinds of information and documents should we keep in our personnel files? …

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Q. In addition to the official personnel files we keep in HR, our supervisors keep informal or working files. Is this allowed? Does this practice present any concerns? …

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It’s tough balancing the rights of disabled employees and the rest of your staff. It’s great to be able to offer accommodations that allow a disabled worker to stay in the labor force. But you don’t have to go to such extremes that your other employees have to pick up considerable slack left by the accommodation …

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If you have a system that gives the most senior employees their picks of the best days off, it’s fair to both job applicants and the organization to be clear about what hours new hires should expect to work. The best approach is to ask about work availability upfront—right on the job application …

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When it comes to hiring or promotion decisions, courts will rarely meddle when companies make honest decisions—even if those decisions aren’t the best or most rational ones. Unless there’s some other underlying discriminatory reason, judges generally won’t second-guess even boneheaded decisions …

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As a practical matter, the FMLA requires employers to carefully keep track of all hours each employee works. If the employer’s time records don’t include all time worked, it is up to the employer to prove to the court that the employee didn’t work enough hours to qualify for FMLA leave. With poor records, that may be hard to do …

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Sometimes, supervisors are the last to know an employee wants an accommodation for a disability. Instead, the employee may be making her own accommodations by asking co-workers for help. Of course, the help may end up keeping them from doing their own jobs. What should you do when you find out? …

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Q. Our receptionist has been certified as eligible for intermittent FMLA leave for migraines. When she calls in sick without notice, it really disrupts our workplace; we have to pull someone from another position to cover her duties. Can I transfer her to another position where we can better accommodate her absences? …

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