Ralph Peterson — 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 2
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Ralph Peterson

Q. Before an employee left for FMLA leave, she performed two functions: administrative assistant and some HR duties. We filled the administrative position while she was on leave. Can we assign her to work only in the HR position when she comes back?

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Q. Do we have to conduct regular performance appraisals and give annual increases? We told a new hire that we would, but now don’t have time or money to do so.

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Employers and HR professionals hear it all the time: You must be prepared to preserve relevant corporate information and data and produce it if you are sued. You can take some preparatory steps to ensure that you can comply with inevitable litigation holds and are proficiently primed to assist your attorneys should litigation occur. This list of 22 to-do’s can guide your document and data preservation and retention procedures:

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Q. We currently pay employees for time spent driving from the office to work sites. We pay minimum wage for that driving time, but we don’t count those hours toward “total hours” worked for the week. That keeps overtime down because their hours aren’t accumulating until they arrive at the job site. Is this OK?

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Q. A former employee recently filed a complaint against my company with the EEOC. He is alleging race discrimination. As part of its investigation, the EEOC will be coming to our offices to interview employees. Do I have to make these employees available? Can I sit in on the employee interviews?

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Q. We recently received a subpoena to produce an employee’s personnel file in connection with a lawsuit. The employee is a party to the lawsuit, but the company is not. Do we have to comply with the subpoena? Should we tell the employee about the subpoena?

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Q. We don’t have a lot of space in our office. Our HR staff shares space with administrative employees and some managers. Must we separate the HR staff from others to protect employee records from snooping eyes?

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Q. One of our employees suffered a job-related injury. Now she’s trying to sue us in court for damages following mediation in which she settled her workers’ compensation petition by accepting permanent total disability (PTD) benefits. Can she do that?

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Q. We recently signed a collective-bargaining agreement with a union. While the labor contract addresses union representation during grievances and arbitrations, it doesn’t offer our managers and security investigators any guidance on whether and how the union can represent a covered employee during any interviews or investigations of possible employee misconduct. What is our duty under these circumstances?

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Do you rely on restrictive agreements (also known as noncompete agreements) to prevent employees from working for the competition and stealing your customers? If so, now is a good time to make sure those agreements will stand up in court.
A recent 11th Circuit Court of Appeals case, Proudfoot Consulting Co. v. Gordon, illustrates the obstacles and complexity that can trip up employers that take former employees to court.

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Q. During inclement weather, we sometimes close the office early and send employees home. Do we have to pay them for the whole day?

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You’re probably familiar with the legislative fight brewing over the proposed Employee Free Choice Act. That debate has spotlighted a fact many employers don’t realize: Nonunion employers must comply with requirements of the National Labor Relations Act. To help you comply, here are the major traps to watch for.

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Q. The attorney for one of my former employees sent a letter demanding payment for overtime compensation. The letter threatened to sue me personally, along with my corporation. I understood that only the employer—the company—and not the CEO or owners of the corporation could be sued under employment discrimination laws. Can I be sued personally for wage-and-hour claims?

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The Florida Legislature and Gov. Charlie Crist have given members of the uniformed services—and especially National Guard members—some new and improved employment rights under the Florida Military Affairs Act. They come in the form of amendments to Chapter 250 of the Florida Statutes, which includes the Florida Uniformed Servicemembers Protection Act.

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Q. Several of our hourly employees have requested access to their office e-mail from their iPhones, BlackBerrys and other similar devices. We are inclined to allow this access, but want the employees who receive access to sign express waivers to the effect that they will not be “on-the-clock” while doing so. Can we legally require such a waiver?

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Q. One of our former employees filed a discrimination lawsuit against the company. She subsequently filed for bankruptcy, but failed to include the pending lawsuit as an asset in the bankruptcy estate. She eventually obtained a bankruptcy discharge. Will the company now be able to have her discrimination lawsuit dismissed?

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Q. Our state agency’s board is considering terminating a legal secretary who seems to have been a supporter of one of our attorneys who was discharged for both performance problems and being disloyal to our board. We understand that, under the patronage dismissal doctrine, we can terminate employees who supported the political opponent of our agency’s elective head. Can the board likewise discharge the legal secretary for her seeming disloyalty?

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Claims of pregnancy discrimination have gained attention again with the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in AT&T Corp. v. Hulteen. In light of the decision, now is the time to conduct an audit of your practices, policies and plans to make sure they comply with the  Pregnancy Discrimination Act ’s requirements.

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In light of the enactment of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009, employers have begun re-examining the cases of some employees who were involuntarily discharged for misconduct. The purpose? To determine whether the employees are eligible to receive a 65% subsidy for continuation of health insurance benefits under COBRA.

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Q. One of our financial managers has filed for bankruptcy, and our directors now want to terminate him because they doubt his financial judgment. They’re also worried that customers will react negatively to the news that one of our finance people is going bankrupt. Can we lawfully discharge him?

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