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‘Workplace Management’ Category


Letter to retrieve belongings

What do you say in a letter to ask an employee to pick up their belonging?

The letter should be simple and to the point. Include a list of the belongings in the employer’s possession as well as the expectation that the employee contacts a specific person directly to schedule a time for him to retrieve the items. It’s recommended to send the letter certified to ensure the employee receives it.

If the employee doesn’t respond to the request it’s often in the best interest of the employer to ship the items to the employee’s last known address. The least expensive shipping method can be used but be sure to track the package to ensure delivery. It’s also a good idea to keep a list of the items shipped as well as pictures of the items if they’re valuable or fragile.

If, for some reason, shipping the items is not feasible the employer must consider state laws regarding abandoned property. Some states require employers to store the property in a safe place for a specified time frame prior to discarding it.

April 4th, 2014, 11:35 AM |  Posted in: Workplace Management |
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Reasonable Accommodation

I have an employee who has an on-going medical condition and is protected. We have downsized to a small firm of 9 and need each professional to be able to cover the most ground possible-optimally (w/o quality compromise).

Lately said employee has been getting sick again and at crucial moments when he/she has been needed because of un-moveable deadlines. It causes stress to her/his team and leaves an unaffordable gap for the time he/she is gone.

The principal gets very annoyed .
I point attention to “what are the needs of the business” in an effort to fram it that way and explore legal options handling this situation. My style as HR and general support is usually to find a solution to the ned first–like hire part time to fill the skill need and then come up with a solution for an unpredictable employee.

There seems to be a reluctance to take consequential action. The company really cannot afford to”carry” someone” and this person really cannot be expected to “stretch”. I would appreciate any thoughts on this.

An employer with only nine workers is not covered under the two main federal laws that would apply to this situation, the ADA and FMLA. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to employers with 15 or more employees. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) covers employers with 50 or more employees.

Depending upon the state workers’ compensation law, a covered employee is entitled to wage assistance but the employer may not have to hold his job if doing so would cause significant hardship to the employer. Some states may permit the termination of the employee but require the employer to rehire him once he is able to return to work; while other states prohibit the termination of an employee on workers’ compensation.

Also, some states have adopted personal leave of absence laws in addition to federal legislation. Most of these laws don’t apply to small employers.

Without knowing why the employee is considered protected, it’s difficult to provide sound feedback but here are some things to consider.

Unless the employee’s absences are protected by the ADA, FMLA, worker’s compensation, or state personal leave laws, at-will employees can be terminated at any time as long as the reason is not illegal. Absenteeism and sub-standard work are legitimate causes for disciplinary action including termination.

It’s best to follow policy or established practice. If an employee in the past with a short term disability i.e. medical condition causing absences or sub-standard work was given accommodations and continued his employment then the same entitlement should be given to this worker. However, if this worker’s absences are more excessive and the hardship to the company is more significant, disciplinary action is warranted.

If no policy or past practice exists, it’s best to adopt a clear policy on how to handle this matter now and for future occurrences. The policy depends on what the company can afford to offer. Sample personal leave policies can be found on the internet and edited to meet company standards.

Aside from offering the employee a short term personal leave and, again, assuming no federal or state laws apply, an option is to have a discussion with the employee concerning her absenteeism and quality of work. Inform the employee that her work performance is not up to company expectations and future performance issues will lead to disciplinary actions. Be sympathetic to the employee’s personal condition but be clear that accommodations have already been made and his work still continues to suffer. Follow progressive discipline. If the poor performance continues after warnings then termination would be warranted.

Hiring a part time employee to assist with business need due to the employee in question being unreliable is only masking the problem. Yes, doing so will help the team and overall business short term. However, not dealing with the actual issue will only prolong the situation and set a standard for other employees. It’s best to address the situation now and establish guidelines for the employee’s future with the company as well as other employees who may find themselves in similar situations one day. Hope this helps!


Required hours between shifts

I have heard 2 different stories as to the amount of time employees must be given between shifts. One version is that legally there must be 8 hrs from the end of one shift to the beginning of the next shift. The other, that 10 hrs. is the requirement. What does the state law in Washington state require?

There is neither federal nor Washington state law establishing a set amount of time required between shifts. The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries specifically states that there are no regulations regarding when and how workers are scheduled.

There are certain industries that require a set amount of time between shifts. Such industries generally have safety sensitive positions, like airline pilots or commercial drivers. These standards are established by industry appropriate administrations.

Allowing employees eight hours of time off between shifts is a commonly used standard; however, there is no legislation requiring it for all workers.

Employers must consider the benefits of adequate time off between shifts. Employees need sufficient rest in order to avoid fatigue. Excessive fatigue can lead to health problems or workplace accidents, which will only increase employees’ time away from work. Not allowing employees ample time to rest will pose a safety risk as well as decrease productivity and employee morale.



I had a supervisor who I gave warnings to for excessive breaks and failure to follow our break policy. In her warning it stated that she will be demoted if she doesn’t follow the policy. Two months later she was breaking policy again so I demoted her. After the demotion she stated that I did it because she was pregnant. I had no knowledge of her being pregnant. What are the laws out there for this situation?

An employer is within its rights to discipline an employee for violating company policy. It seems as though progressive disciplinary actions were taken. The employee violated company procedure and was given adequate warnings of the infraction and informed of the consequences of continued occurrences. She repeated the same violation; so, the consequences were administered.

It would have been a good idea prior to the demotion to ask the employee if there was a reason she continued to violate the break policy. She may have disclosed to you at the time that due to her medical condition, i.e. pregnancy, extra bathroom breaks were necessary. Then reasonable accommodations would have been made allowing her the extra breaks needed while still following company policy and avoiding the present situation.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) forbids discrimination based on pregnancy when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, such as leave and health insurance, and any other term or condition of employment. Conditions resulting from pregnancy may be considered disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). An employer may have to provide reasonable accommodations such as job modifications as long as doing so doesn’t cause the employer substantial difficulty or expense. An example of a reasonable accommodation in this case would have been to allow the employee additional bathroom breaks.

Based on the information provided, if you were truly unaware of the employee’s condition then discrimination isn’t an issue. If the employee decides to sue alleging pregnancy discrimination, she must prove that she was treated differently based on her pregnancy. The employee didn’t disclose the need for additional bathroom breaks or the reason for the excessive breaks and standard progressive disciplinary procedures were followed to address the insubordination; thus, litigation seems unlikely. However, one could argue that it’s the employer’s responsibility to question the reason for the continued violations prior to imposing disciplinary actions.

At this point, your best bet is to document the date she informed you of the pregnancy and ensure going forward all reasonable accommodations are offered to her. Keep in mind, the PDA requires employers to treat pregnant employees as they would treat any temporarily disabled employee. Also, make sure proper notices of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) are provided if both employer and employee are covered.

March 20th, 2014, 8:50 PM |  Posted in: Labor Laws, Workplace Management |
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Definition of Full Time

How many hours a week is considered a full time employee? And do you have to offer benefits to full time employees?

There are no federal guidelines differentiating full time and part time employment. Such determinations are generally made by the employer. Whether an employee is full time or part time doesn’t impact the applications of federal legislation like the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which requires employers to compensate non-exempt employees for hours worked over 40 in a given work week at a rate of one and one half times their normal pay.

Company policy sets the number of hours employees are expected to work per week. Commonly, full time employees work at least 35 hours per week. Anything less would be considered part time. Again, this is completely up to the employer to decide.

Benefits are any compensation paid to employees in addition to their base salary. Basic benefits include health care coverage such as medical/dental/vision, paid time off such as vacation/sick/holiday, retirement accounts, or flexible spending accounts to name a few. Employers may also chose to offer employee assistance programs, employee discounts, or relocation assistance.

Benefits are considered a matter of agreement between employer and employee and are not mandated by the federal government. Thus, coverage may differ amongst employees for employment based classifications such as full time or part time, exempt or non-exempt, length of service, or job group. Most importantly, benefit plan decisions must be nondiscriminatory. If an employer chooses to offer benefits to a select group of employees, the employer must consider if the criteria creates an adverse impact on protected groups or unintentional discrimination.

Keep in mind, the federal Affordable Care Act “ACA” or commonly referred to as ObamaCare requires large employers, generally those with fifty or more employees, to provide health benefits to full time employees or pay penalties. Under the law, a full time employee is one who works on average 30 hours per week. Enforcement of this portion of the law has been extended until 2015.

March 16th, 2014, 12:09 PM |  Posted in: Benefits, Compensation, Labor Laws, Workplace Management |
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