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William Sturges

Q. We have several employees that have been laid off and are receiving unemployment benefits. They have asked whether they are required to pay taxes on their unemployment benefits.

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Q. Our production manager heard that employers don’t have to pay holiday pay if an employee is absent the workday immediately before or after the paid holiday. Is this true?

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Q. Another company has requested a reference for an employee that we fired. The company has a signed form giving the employee’s written consent to ask us for a reference. Will we have legal problems if we provide negative information about the employee?

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Q. One of our field technicians is consistently late in providing her time sheets. This interferes with promptly billing our customers for work performed. Can we delay paying this employee as an incentive to submit her time sheets on time?

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Layoffs are difficult for employees and employers alike. In these tough economic times, some employers are trying to help employees during layoffs and help prevent the permanent loss of good employees by implementing supplemental unemployment benefit plans.

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Q. Some of our employees have accrued large amounts of vacation pay because they have worked here for many years. Can we strip this vacation pay at the end of the year?

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Q. Our new plant manager wants to revise the company’s sexual harassment policy to require all employee complaints to be in writing. Can we do this?

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Q. Most of our employees wear safety steel-toed boots. One of our employees said his boots are worn out and we are required to reimburse him when he buys a new pair. Is that correct?

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Q. We are a private employer. Can we avoid paying overtime to our hourly employees by giving them comp time?

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Q. Do we have to pay our employees for a full day’s work when they leave early due to bad weather?

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Sometimes, it makes financial sense for companies to engage workers as independent contractors rather than as employees. It can have advantages for workers, too. But whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor has nothing to do with the desires of the organization or the worker. Not even a written contract can make someone an independent contractor if that status isn’t legitimate.

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Q. I have heard that an employee handbook can create a contract between the employer and the employee. Is this true? If so, can this be prevented?

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Q. Are we obligated to provide paid leave so one of our employees can attend a mandatory school meeting concerning his child?

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Q. We are a small company and do not have an employee handbook. Are we required to have one?

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Q. When there’s even a hint of bad weather, one of our employees goes home. Can we require her to work until the regular quitting time?

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In 1970, the federal government passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA). Then in 1973, North Carolina passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act of North Carolina (OSHANC). The North Carolina act has its own administrative and review procedures that aren’t always similar to its federal counterpart.

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Terminating an employee who has been out on workers’ compensation leave is a high-stakes process. How well you handle it can affect your ongoing workers’ compensation liability—and could also subject you to claims of wrongful discharge or retaliation. It’s made all the more complex by the fact that your workers’ comp carrier’s goals may conflict with yours.

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Q. One of our employees is being harassed by a co-worker, and we are concerned it may get violent. What can we do about this?

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Q. We have an employee who does not work very hard, and her productivity is only mediocre. If we terminate her, will she be able to collect unemployment compensation?

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Q. I understand that consideration is required for noncompete restrictions in North Carolina and that—for existing employees—continued employment is not valid consideration. How much must a company pay to have sufficient consideration?

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