The HR Specialist

Q. A more senior employee was recently passed over for a promotion because a newer employee is clearly more qualified. Now that this person is the boss, the more senior employee has filed several petty complaints against her. Although we are aware that these complaints are completely invalid, as the HR department, we have to take them seriously. But it is a shame for the new supervisor to have the complaints piling up in her file. Is this considered harassment?

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Q. I know that my company can be sued by my current and former employees for its employment actions. Do I, as an HR professional, have personal liability for my participation in employment decisions?

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Q. We have a position open in our sales department for someone who will be planning and executing company-sponsored events, most of which would take place outside normal 9-to-5 working hours. Is there a way we can ask about the applicants’ family situations and make it clear that missing these events because of family obligations would not be tolerated?

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Q. Our organization has a four-day annual meeting for our managers, directors and leaders from 40 offices across the United States. The evening before the meeting ends, we host a large, fun, casual theme party. During this year’s party one of the sales managers from an affiliate office became so intoxicated that she had to be held up and escorted back to her room, where a hospital medical staff member stayed with her to make sure she was OK. The following day, she skipped the remaining meeting sessions and took an early flight home. Is this grounds for dismissal?

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Q. My company pays health insurance for all spouses, children and domestic partners of my co-workers. I am single and don’t have children or a domestic partner. Am I being discriminated against since they receive more benefits than I do?

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Q. An employee we hired two months ago has been absent frequently. She just informed us that: She is three months pregnant; is often too sick to work due to her pregnancy; has been told by her doctor that she can work only part-time for the next several months; and might be on bed rest for the last two months of her pregnancy. It is necessary for her to perform her job on a full-time basis without excessive absences. Is pregnancy covered under the ADA? Can we terminate her to hire someone who will be there full-time?

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Q. Our employee handbook states: “If you do not return a piece of property, we will withhold from your final paycheck the cost of replacing that piece of property.” One of our employees recently quit on the spot. The employee was given a termination letter that cited the employee handbook section on unreturned property. He admitted he could not find his handbook—even accused management of having it. My boss wants to almost double the actual replacement cost of the item and call it “staff time spent getting the item.” Can we do this?

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Q. What is the policy on FMLA for workers who are employed by a county facility that puts their contracts out for bids? Let’s say the workers are employed by the first successful bidder for, say, three years and then the contract is re-bid. Another company wins the bid, takes over the job and keeps the same employees. Do their hours worked carry over even though it is a different employer? I could not find a reference to this problem in the FMLA guidelines.

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Q. When may an employer conduct background checks on employees and potential employees?

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Q. We had an employee who was not working out. We gave her the choice of resigning or being terminated. She chose to resign. We were happy because we understand that an employee who resigns is not entitled to unemployment compensation under Texas law? Are we right?—S.G.

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