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Separation Notice

Is it a mandate in the state of Louisiana to provide a separation notice to terminated employees whether they voluntary or involuntary quit?

There is neither federal nor Louisiana state law that requires private employers to provide employees with a written notice.

Employment in Louisiana is considered at-will unless an employment contract or collective bargaining agreement exists stating otherwise. Employment-at-will means either the employer or employee can terminate the employment relationship with or without cause or notice. Of course, it’s unlawful to terminate an employee due to a protected characteristic including but not limited to race, color, national origin, religion, gender (including pregnancy), disability, age (40 years and older), and citizenship status.

It’s fairly common for employers to provide a termination letter to applicable employees. A termination letter can confirm the at-will doctrine and state the effective date of the termination and the reason for the termination.

Some employers feel that disclosing the reason for the termination exposes them to legal ramifications. However, a properly written letter does just the opposite. Concisely and directly explaining the justification for the termination prevents the employee from coming up with their own conclusions and limits the risk of discrimination claims.  The reasoning should be fact based and not include personal assumptions about the employee.

A termination letter can also include information about the final paycheck, vacation/sick time payouts, and remind employees of any post-termination obligations.

Though a termination notice is not required in Louisiana, remember there are notification requirements for group healthcare continuation under the federal Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). COBRA requires group health plans to offer continuation coverage to covered employees, former employees, spouses, former spouses, and dependent children when group health coverage would otherwise be lost due to certain specific events, including termination.

July 22nd, 2016, 1:28 PM |  Posted in: Termination |
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Vacation Payout in RI

I understand that vacation must be paid out in RI, but I keep reading “according to company policy.” Our company policy (unless state law is different) is to payout up to a maximum of 40 hours of PTO. For the state of RI, am I to pay out all accrued vacation (the employee has worked more than one year) or only according to our PTO payout policy?

Though employers in Rhode Island are not required to provide employees with vacation benefits, if they choose to do so the terms of the established policy or practice must be followed. Also, according to Rhode Island law, an employee who has completed at least one year of service upon separation from employment is due any unused accrued vacation time that has been earned in accordance with company policy or practice.

Once the one year service criteria is met, any accrued vacation time is considered wages and any unused time must be paid out upon separation. So, it is unlawful to limit an employee’s vacation payout to 40 hours once the employee meets the one year service criteria.

Here is the exact law:

§ 28-14-4  Payment on separation by employer. – (a) Whenever an employee separates or is separated from the payroll of an employer, the unpaid wages or compensation of the employee shall become due on the next regular payday and payable at the usual place of payment.

(b) Whenever an employee separates or is separated from the payroll of an employer after completing at least one year of service, any vacation pay accrued or awarded by collective bargaining, written or verbal company policy, or any other written or verbal agreement between employer and employee shall become wages and payable in full or on a prorated basis with all other due wages on the next regular payday for the employee.

(c) Whenever an employer separates an employee from the payroll as a result of the employer liquidating the business, merging the business, disposing the business, or removing the business out of state, all wages become immediately due and payable within twenty-four (24) hours of the time of separation at the usual place of payment. Additionally, if the employee has completed at least one year of service with the employer, holiday pay, vacation pay in full or on a prorated basis, and insurance benefits due the employee under a collective bargaining agreement, company policy, or other agreement between the employer and employee shall be considered as unpaid wages due and payable within twenty-four (24) hours of the time of separation at the usual place of payment.

July 22nd, 2016, 12:58 PM |  Posted in: Benefits, Compensation |
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Prorating Annual Leave

Can you please provide the calculation to prorate an employee’s annual leave for 10 days vacation leave and 3 days sick leave from October 5, 2015 to date?

Pro-rating vacation and sick time is a common question. The calculation is fairly simple.

Let’s say the employee works 8 hours a day.

He earns 80 hours of vacation time a year (8 hours a day x 10 days of vacation = 80 hours of annual vacation leave) and 24 hours of sick time a year (8 hours a day x 3 days of sick leave = 24 hours of annual sick leave).

We need to determine how much time the employee earned from October 5, 2015 to a set date. Let’s use July 22, 2016.

Divide total number of vacation hours (80) by number of weeks in a year (52) = 1.538 hours of vacation earned per week.

There are 42 weeks from October 5, 2015 to July 22, 2016.

Hours of vacation earned per week (1.538) x weeks of vacation entitlement (42) = 64.596 hours of vacation accrued.

The same calculation can be used for the sick time.

Divide total number of sick hours (24) by number of weeks in a year (52) = 0.461 hours of sick leave earned per week.

Hours of vacation earned per week (0.461) x weeks of vacation entitlement (42) = 19.362 hours of sick leave accrued.

So, as of July 22nd the employee has accrued 64.596 hours of vacation leave and 19.362 hours of sick leave.

Lastly, make sure to set a standard rounding practice.

July 22nd, 2016, 12:21 PM |  Posted in: Benefits |
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Dummy Files

I keep all of the original employee files in my office and our remote sites keep a photocopied dummy with them. Do the photocopied files have the same requirements as the originals? For example, do you still need to keep the I-9 separate and have a separate medical file, payroll file, etc…

The regulations regarding the maintenance of employee files don’t distinguish between an original versus a duplicate file. So, it’s probably in your best interest to follow federal and state regulations for both sets of files.

It’s worth considering why you need copies of employees’ entire files at your remote locations.

It’s understandable to maintain copies of performance documents such as performance appraisals, goals, job descriptions, disciplinary actions and even compensation information. It’s beneficial to have these documents along with policy acknowledgement forms and emergency contacts available for quick access by supervisors at the employee’s actual work location.

Documents that contain sensitive information such as background checks/drug test results, Form I-9 and supporting documentation, medical/insurance records, wage garnishments, and employment verifications don’t need to be accessed by anyone other than HR/Payroll or an Auditor. Furthermore, special guidelines limit the viewing of information pertaining to an employee’s disability under the (Americans with Disabilities Act) ADA, leave taken under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and other medical information.

There are legal and ethical obligations to keep certain employee information private. Having sensitive information in several locations only increases the risk of a security breach and a potential violation.

July 22nd, 2016, 11:55 AM |  Posted in: Human Resources Management |
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Accrrued Vacation Pay for Terminated Employee

Does an employer have to pay accrued vacation time to an employee who is fired for theft?

There is no federal law that requires private employers to provide vacation benefits to employees let alone mandate that any unused time is paid out. However, many states have adopted laws regarding the administration of vacation benefits. Of those states, many simply require employers to adhere to their own established practices or policies.

Feel free to post a comment listing your state and we can then research applicable state legislation.

Absent state law stating otherwise, employers are free to establish a vacation payout policy of their choosing. Many employers opt to decline payouts to employees who fail to provide sufficient notice of resignation or who are terminated. Any such stipulations on vacation payouts should be clearly stated in the vacation policy.

July 22nd, 2016, 11:19 AM |  Posted in: Benefits |
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