The HR Specialist

Q. If an employee quits or is terminated and refuses to return employer property—such as a pager or a cell phone—can the employer deduct the value of the property from the employee’s final paycheck? …

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Q. We have an employee with a chronic health condition who began taking FMLA intermittent leave in February. She had worked more than 1,250 hours in the 12 months before the leave started. By June, she had dropped below 1,250 hours. Does she lose her eligibility now? …

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Q. One of my employees is scheduled to return this fall from a two-year tour of duty in Iraq. What rights does this employee have regarding his return to work? …

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Q. An employee filed a sexual harassment claim with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission against my company. The commission investigated the charge and found it to be without merit. She still works for us and is continually threatening to file a retaliation claim. Can she? …

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The federal Older Workers Benefit Protection Act (OWBPA) requires employers to give older workers at least 21 days to consider the offer if any termination or severance-pay agreement asks them to give up their right to sue for age discrimination. But fortunately, once the case is in court, there’s no waiting period …

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One of the quickest ways to turn an annoying—but perhaps unfounded—discrimination complaint into a winning lawsuit is to react inappropriately. That’s why it’s critically important for HR professionals to remind managers and supervisors: Don’t comment on pending complaints! Plus, remind them that venting in front of employees can backfire …

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If you think you can prevent employees from suing you directly by negotiating a union contract specifying that all employment disputes go to arbitration, think again. Even if the collective-bargaining agreement specifies that every employment-law dispute will be arbitrated, your employees still can go to state or federal court with their claims …

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Q. Several employees have complained that they received personal letters via our company’s regular mail system (not e-mail) that had been opened by someone else in our company. Can other employees or supervisors open and read personal mail sent to employees? …

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Q. Our company is in the process of going through a reduction in force. One of the positions that has been selected for elimination belongs to an employee on FMLA leave. Can we still eliminate the position? …

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Q. An employee of ours is requesting a personal day off for religious observance. He is salaried and has exhausted all vacation and personal time. Are we required to give him the day off? …

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