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The HR Specialist Forum

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Question: “With gas prices over $3 per gallon, we’re hearing grumbling from our road warriors that they need a higher per-mile reimbursement rate. We’re already above the IRS guidance. What are other organizations doing to cope with the rising price of gas?”—Trey, SLC
Question: “Long story short: Husband and wife both work for our company. Husband accepts another job out of state because we are downsizing. Wife continues to work for us until they can sell their home here. Then she’ll join her husband there. Fast forward: Manager hires a replacement for the wife. She’ll have a job until the end of March 2008, but she’s nonetheless furious. Why? She never resigned! No letter, no final date, nothing. I’m pretty sure we messed this one up. How should we have handled it?”—ST, Florida
Question: “Congratulations to me! I've been tasked with planning our firm's holiday party—but don't have much money to work with. I've got 50 people to please. I think we could afford to go off-site, but I'd rather spend on the food and fun than a hotel ballroom. Does anybody have creative ideas on how to celebrate the season without breaking the bank?”—Sandra, OR
Question: “One of our employees regularly calls in sick because of her child’s medical problems. She has used up all her sick time, so now we have to dock her a day’s pay. How can I get her to improve her attendance so she’s at work more? Can we fire her for poor attendance?”—L.C., New York
Question: “When I started working here, there were four people in the HR department. Now there’s just one—me! There's too much work for one employee. Now my employer has told me I can’t work overtime, but still have to get all my work done. I feel like I have to work overtime with no pay or else lose my job. Other than quitting, do I have any options?”—Michele, CA
Question: “Recently an employee had chest pains at work and was taken to the hospital. To respect his privacy, we did not make an all-staff announcement about what happened, but did tell management. However, some employees who were very concerned about their co-worker got upset that we didn't keep them informed. Did we handle this correctly? What's should our policy be on disclosing an employee’s health issues to other employees?”—Pierre in AZ
Question: Management recently told all my organization’s non-exempt employees that they would no longer be paid for coming in for “on call” emergency situations. There would be no need to clock in as it will be considered “volunteered” time. The time can’t be credited to comp time either. This seems illegal to me all around. Anyone have any thoughts on this?—T.A., Iowa
Question: An employee recently told a co-worker that he thought his “life isn’t worth living.” How should we in HR handle this? Other than asking the employee if he needs a “sounding board,” what else should we be doing?—K.S., Las Vegas
Question: “One of our employees has asked her manager if she can 'job share.' Instead of working full time, she’d work three days, another person would work two days, and they would share the job duties. I’m a little worried—especially about shared responsibility, and who is ultimately accountable for the work. What are the pros and cons? Does anyone else have experience with job sharing?”—Jeanne, MN
Question: “We have operations in several states, and managers in those offices handle local hiring. I run HR from our headquarters, meaning I can't be there to review the original employment-eligibility verification documents new hires have to show when completing I-9 forms. How should I train managers to make sure we comply with the law? Do I need to spell this out in a policy?” — DB, Ohio
Question: “Earlier this year, my boss promised me a salary increase by mid-year. When I reminded him about it, he said he'd forgotten — and then did nothing. (Because part of my job involves checking his e-mail, I know other employees have had similar issues with him.)  How should I approach him about honoring his promise? This is putting a strain on our working relationship!” — Judy, Minneapolis
Question: "As classes start up again this fall, we're looking at how much we spend to reimburse employees for college and technical courses they take. Senior management is happy to offer this benefit, but we wonder what's the standard for:
  • "How much (on a percentage basis) we should reimburse.
  • "The kinds of courses we should offer to reimburse.
"What do your policies say? Are there other issues to consider as we review our policy?" -- Gerry, Indianapolis
Question: "After we hired someone, we found out that she had a snake tattoo down her arm. Plus, she's now wearing a tongue ring which she did not have in when we interviewed her. My question is: Can we ask her to remove the tongue piercing during working hours and wear a long sleeve blouse or sweater to cover the tattoo while she is at work?" -- Faye, PA
Question: "It's back-to-school time, which means a lot of parents in our plant are going to need to take time off for various school-related activities. Trouble is, we're in a relatively small community and most of our kids go to the same schools, which means everybody needs time off at the same time. Any suggestions on how to handle this so we can keep our plant running smoothly and be good parents?" -- A.G., Alabama
Question: “I’m in desperate need of some way to explain the concept of exempt and nonexempt employees to top management in my company. I know there are strict legal definitions, but I wish someone would come up with an informative shorthand description of the difference between the two categories. I also need a way to impress on management the importance of carefully distinguishing between exempt and nonexempt status. Any advice?” — Ron C., Oklahoma
Question: "How can I persuade our employees to take the leave FMLA was designed to provide? Short surgeries, family situations, and even new fathers—these are all situations in which employees have chosen to use vacation time instead of FMLA entitlements. The most common reasoning is 'I want to save it in case of a real emergency.' Any advice for making the case for FMLA?" — Elaine A., Florida
Question: "We have an employee who is nearing 80 years old. His performance is slipping to the point where he creates more work than he accomplishes. Is there an alternative to increasingly harsh evaluations and eventual termination? We’d like the employee to depart with dignity, but there are no indications toward that end.” — J.P., Arizona
Question: "Does anyone have a formal policy preventing employees from using vacation/paid time off leave in the time between announcing their resignation and the actual quitting day? It can be really hard to do the necessary "knowledge dump"  if the person spends much of his or her final two weeks on vacation. What policies do you set?" — C.P. Cotter, Colorado
Question: We're a small manufacturing firm with fewer that 50 employees. It's getting harder to find qualified people, so I'm advocating a stepped up training program. Management is balking at the cost. We currently spend a little over 1% of payroll on training. I think we should at least spend 2% and preferably more. Am I off base? How can I make the case? -- Carol C., Oregon
Question: "I'm a college student considering a career in HR. What kinds of courses should I take to prepare myself for this career path? What courses do you wish you had taken when you were in college? Is there a preferred major?" -- M.A., California
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