The HR Specialist — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Page 349
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The HR Specialist

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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When defending the termination of an employee who has filed a complaint with a local human rights commission, you must take the commission’s process seriously. Always get your attorney involved early, so you can defend yourself during the crucial initial stages. And don’t count on getting the commission’s findings overturned on appeal. Indiana courts have shown they won’t readily overrule commission conclusions …

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It takes just one low-level manager or frontline supervisor to create havoc in the workplace. These people set the tone of workplace communications, and if that tone has sexual content, others are likely to follow the lead. That’s one good reason to make sure you do more than lecture on sexual harassment. Instead—especially if branch offices are located away from headquarters—HR should make spot visits to see whether anything is amiss …

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Benefits are increasingly expensive to provide, and sometimes employers have to make changes to remain competitive. Be aware, though, that you need to implement any benefits changes with great attention to detail. Make certain the summary plan description is accurate, and that the underlying insurance documents are also correct …

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In the age of e-mail, instant messaging and other written but ephemeral forms of communication, it’s easy to be caught off guard when an employee claims sexual harassment via the company computers. If an employee says she’s received hundreds of sexually explicit e-mails from co-workers or others associated with the company, could you prove her wrong? …

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Lawyers representing employees in class-action wage-and-hour cases often look for ways to boost the amount of damages they can collect. One of the most common ways to do that: Bring in a host of state laws to set the employer’s punishment. That won’t work any longer in North Carolina and other Mid-Atlantic states. The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected the tactic …

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Q. Are disclaimers in employee handbooks valid in North Carolina? …

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