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The HR Specialist

In tough economic times, organizations sometimes have to make hard choices—such as whether to temporarily lay off employees. Of course, you’ll hope to ramp up staffing when the economy rebounds. That’s when you’ll need to be extra careful. If you bar workers you laid off from being rehired, you may be courting trouble …

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There’s no need to cut out all the subjective factors that go into a hiring decision. Instead, make sure you also include objective measures that can be easily compared, such as education, experience and specific skills. That way, you are more likely to win a discrimination challenge …

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Nothing spurs a lawsuit like a discharge, and such cases often boil down to who said what, and when. That’s why it’s wise to have at least two management-level representatives present at all termination meetings—perhaps one supervisor and one HR rep. If the termination leads to litigation, the two people can testify about what happened …

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Q. We recently discovered that one of our employees has been falsifying her timecards. When we confronted her, she admitted it but said that she only began doing this recently. An internal investigation showed that this has been going on for several years. Over the past two years our company overpaid her at least $5,000 as a result of her fraud. She resigned. Her final paycheck, including wages and accrued paid time off, is $1,500. Can we refuse to pay her final paycheck and use that money to offset the $5,000 she owes us? How do we recover the remaining $3,500? …

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Q. I was recently reviewing an employment application submitted by a candidate for an open position. Can we lawfully ask whether the candidate requires immigration sponsorship in order to obtain authorization to work for our company? …

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When it comes to disciplining employees who break company rules, courts like to keep their hands off employer decisions—as long as everyone who breaks a particular rule receives the same punishment. But courts rarely have problems with the rules companies create and the punishments companies assign to particular rules …

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Q. We are closing one of our offices in Minnesota. The number of employees affected is not sufficient to trigger any notice obligations under the federal WARN Act. Does Minnesota have a state statute that would require us to give the employees advance notice of the restructuring? …

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Employers can and should decide each employee discipline case on its own merits. Just make sure someone in HR or a supervisor keeps close tabs on all discipline and documents the decision. Notes should include specifics: the rule broken, its effect and its relative seriousness …

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FMLA regulations provide employers with four options for calculating how much leave employees are entitled to at any given time. But if you don’t select a method and let employees know, the DOL says you must use the one most beneficial to the employee. That may mean doing four calculations every time an employee wants FMLA leave …

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Employees who have chronic medical conditions that require intermittent FMLA leave sometimes take advantage of alleged flare-ups to go on vacation or otherwise miss work for personal reasons. Discourage that kind of abuse by requiring them to call in daily. If the employee ignores the requirement, you can terminate her for failing to follow company policy …

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