Suzanne Lucas spent 10 years in corporate human resources, where she hired, fired, managed the numbers and double-checked with the lawyers. Read more at www.evilhrlady.org. On Twitter @RealEvilHRLady.
I have an employee who would like to be referred to with gender-neutral pronouns. What is our obligation to this employee, and do we face possible legal repercussions?
I can’t afford a full-time HR person, but I need help onboarding new hires. What can I do?
An employee quit because they were bored and couldn’t transfer to another role based on a company’s policy. Is this a good policy to keep?
There’s always someone in the office counting the number of vacation days each person takes, which makes extra paid vacation days a tricky thing to offer.
The National Labor Relations Act protects your right to discuss working conditions with your coworkers, and that includes salaries.
“Can full-time, permanent employees do freelance work for our California-based company if that work falls outside their job description?”
The Fair Labor Standards Act has strict rules regarding paying nonexempt employees, and California is even stricter; one of the key components is that employees must be paid for every hour they work
“Evil HR Lady” Suzanne Lucas explains what you should say — and what you shouldn’t — when a prospective employer calls with a reference check.
After an employee lodged an OSHA complaint against a company, his manager found a journal in the employee’s office that would make any reasonable person cringe in the era of #MeToo. Comstock’s columnist Suzanne Lucas explains why it’s still a bad idea to terminate the employee in this case.
A company is considering switching a full-time worker into a contractor after the employee requested to work from home. Can the company legally do this?
How and when to give feedback to rejected candidates.
How to cut labor cost during tough times.
While on maternity leave, an opportunity for my dream job has come up, and they want someone immediately. The hiring manager said he was impressed with my resume and would hire me. Do I have to go back to work and then give two weeks’ notice, or can I just quit? I know this might not be ethical, but legally can they do anything to stop me?
What are employers expected to do for employees when the air quality is dangerous? Are we legally obligated to close when the air quality is so bad?
I’m in my 50s and the HR manager for a startup — about 80 people and the average employee is under 30. I’m dealing with a 20-something problem employee. She’s dramatic, often disrupting work with her grievances. Despite my recommendation, her manager (also young) won’t put her on a performance improvement plan over concerns it will reinforce the idea we have a toxic environment. What can I do?
One of our employees is a vegan activist, and has started posting material on the “evils of eating meat” outside his cubicle or leaving them strewn around shared spaces (in the kitchen, near the copier, etc.). Is there anything I can do about this behavior?
I’m the HR manager for my company, and a director wanted to write up an employee for posting an article titled “Employees Don’t Leave Jobs, They Leave Managers” on her personal LinkedIn account. The director had already spoken with the employee and asked her to remove the article from LinkedIn, which she did. However, this doesn’t appear to be a violation of our organization’s social media policy. What should I do?
Recently, my boss held a meeting with my direct reports where they filled out a survey about my performance as their manager. When my boss shared the results with me, he disclosed that “someone” mentioned I wasn’t allowing my team to learn, but rather I was micromanaging them. In discussing my frustration with a peer, she expressed that he is not allowed to do this. Can you shed some light?
My organization’s dress code is business casual — jeans are acceptable with nice tops. But our leadership team disagrees over who should have to follow this dress code. Should all our employees have the same expectations or is there a different standard for those that come in contact with clients or vendors more regularly?
Dilemma of the Month: My business is quite seasonal. We have work year round, but in the off-season we don’t need the same number of employees. It’s just not profitable to keep everyone on the payroll 12 months out of the year. Can I drop hours? Can I lay people off and rehire? Are there things that make one option better than the other?
I’m a corporate recruiter. For candidates that progress to an HR phone screen, we ask their expected salary and share the range we have for the role. Is it appropriate to use someone’s low salary expectations as a reason for not moving forward? I’m concerned that a candidate who makes so much less won’t be a good fit. Is that the case?
I am the CFO for a 90-plus person firm and the head of human resources reports to me. Several employees have told me they feel uncomfortable going to the HR manager with complaints or concerns, because she’s really good friends with some of the people here and they’re afraid she’ll be biased. What do you think?
We are a small business with a staff of three: myself, my husband and one employee. As a seasonal business, we are sometimes very busy and sometimes have hardly any business at all. Recently, our employee asked to convert from a salary to hourly pay. He made this request during our busy season. My question is: Do we have to pay him during a month when we have no business at all?
We are a 30-agent real estate brokerage company with one administrative assistant, our lone employee. However, her professional abilities have not kept pace with the times. She has no technical skills and can’t keep up with her other tasks. She is 75 years old and we are at a loss regarding how to handle easing her into retirement.
Is after-hours employee fraternization between a co-founder and an intern inappropriate, or am I just being extra cautious?
A client recently threatened to quit working with us after seeing politically-charged posts she deemed offensive on one of my account manager’s social media accounts. I’ve asked the employee not to let this happen again, but he countered that we have no policy in place (which is true), and furthermore, these are his personal accounts and he is entitled to free speech. How can I deal with this situation?
I interviewed a job candidate who was severely overweight and had trouble walking. While the job is mostly a desk job (administrative assistant) the admins are expected to run things back and forth when needed. Could I have asked her about her health? I didn’t. I didn’t offer her the job, either, and now I’m feeling guilty. What should I have done?
We drug test new hires at my company. When a potential employee’s test comes back positive it’s easy enough to rescind the offer, but we had a candidate have a test returned “negative but diluted” and we rescinded the offer. The candidate had already given two weeks’ notice at his current company and they won’t take him back. Did we do the right thing?
I have an employee who hasn’t been performing well. Last week, she was out sick again and I needed a report. I tried to call her, but she didn’t answer. So, I asked IT if I could get the report from her email, and they gave me access to her inbox. I found the report, but curiosity overcame me, and I opened a few other emails. I feel totally guilty — I snooped. Is this legal? Is it moral? What do I do with this information?
My assistant “Jane” has a reduced work week, from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. I agreed to this when she was hired. However, two years later, I now need her to work more hours. I don’t need or want to hire an additional person — I just need her to work an 8-hour day. But she doesn’t want to. What can I legally do?
I recently made an offer to a new director of communications for my company. However, I then found out this individual had posted to Facebook asking friends for feedback on two job offers — one for my company and another for a local competitor. I was horrified and I want to remove my offer. Any advice on how to tactfully prevent this from happening in the future?
We have a female employee who reported sexual harassment from a male coworker. The woman didn’t want to come forward, but once the CEO found out, he felt he had an obligation to handle the claim. We currently are without an HR manager. What is the proper way to handle this? Should an investigation be made?
I recently received a promotion, so two months ago I hired “Jane” to assume the role of my former position. Since she’s been here, Jane has constantly undermined me. She has told lies about my character and my productivity to other employees. It is quite obvious that she intends to do whatever she can to show that I am not fit for my new role. What is the best way for me to document her behavior?
Yesterday, I was an individual contributor who did technical work. This morning, a group of my coworkers and I found out that we are now expected to manage about 10 non-exempt staff each. Overnight! There’s no title change, no increase in salary — just added work and stress. We are told we have no choice and have to take on that extra work because the company’s success or failure depends on us. Can they just make us managers without asking? Do we have the right to turn down these positions?
I am an inside sales representative for a medical device company. I work hard to build relationships over the phone to sell and consult on products. When I was hired, the president specifically told me this was not a telemarketing job. Recently, I caught the president introducing our team as “the telemarketers.” Is this a sign I should go back to school asap or find another job?
We service clients who are kids in the foster care system. We really value when our employees that resign give at least a three-weeks’ notice, so they can transition their clients — kids who have already had upheaval in their lives — to their team members before they leave. Is there any meat that we can put on the bones of a policy requiring a three-week notice, with some type of consequence for not providing this notice?
We are reorganizing and will be eliminating one position. We will have to lay this person off, and I have a few questions about how to handle it: Who needs to be in the room when we tell her? How much severance should we offer? What else do I need to do?
Last year, we hired someone to run our small business, and we paid him very well. However, he was always coming in late, taking Fridays off, calling in sick, having car trouble and dentist appointments, etc. He was an exempt employee, so we kept paying him as if he was there all the time. He quit and we don’t want to have the same problems with the new hire.
My boss is a gossiper. I’ve worked at this company for two years.The first year it wasn’t bad, but she gradually started to say negative things to me about my colleague. As I started to hear more, I couldn’t handle it. I told HR the truth and was advised to speak with my boss’s immediate boss. Our team includes only four people, and I feel my boss will know who complained.
I have been in my current job for about one year. I have been working in my industry for eight years and have an MBA. When I applied, the minimum experience was two years. I have more industry experience and more education. How am I not supposed to see this as gender discrimination?
My boss told me she is resigning. She has given a month’s notice, says she is leaving for a position that will help her grow professionally.Will my new boss be as transparent and flexible and interested in developing me professionally as my current boss? What will I do if we don’t work together well?
I was recently let go from a job due to accessing information on our system that I had been taught was allowed. HIPAA guidelines show no issue with getting this information because it was requested. I did break a policy (that I was unaware of), and the company did not wish to discuss the matter further.
I was fired for not meeting 100 percent or higher of my performance goals. I feel these goals are unattainable. People are fired if they are at 99 percent. Is an employer allowed to set those types of goals?
I’m a business owner in California and I’m worried about the impact of the new overtime wage rules in the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. How can I best prepare my business for the changes caused by the regulations?
I’m a 27-year-old high school English teacher, but my long-term goal is to open a performing arts school. I’m torn between obtaining an MFA so that I may bring a strong creative background to my future students, and earning a business degree so that I may learn how to run the school. I worry the MBA will be too broad but that the MFA will be less valuable.
I recently developed a sensitivity to fragrances. I get headaches, suffer from vertigo and generally feel awful. My boss allowed me to post signs that say “Fragrance-Free Zone,” but some people persist in wearing fragrances. I’m non-exempt and can’t work from home: Part of my job is to take notes in meetings, and the biggest fragrance offenders are in these meetings. What can I do?
I have an hourly employee who I cannot get to stop working off the clock. I’ve asked him to only work while on the clock, but the problem persists. I think he’s trying to be helpful, but I’m worried about our liability on the matter and am unsure how to address it with my employee.
We are hiring for a new senior marketing position, and I decided to go with CMO for the title to help recruit a rock star from within our industry to potentially serve as my No 2. My director of fundraising, who I personally recruited four years ago, wants her title changed to Chief Advancement Officer for parity. She does good work but in my mind is not C-level material.
I am an exempt employee and have been working at my company for just under three years. I recently had a serious medical issue that required me to terminate a pregnancy for my own health. I’ve now had three doctor visits in comparatively short succession, and my supervisor is asking why. Since this is an incredibly personal matter, I’m wondering how much I am required to disclose?
I work at a marketing company and often work long hours. Sometimes issues come up outside of the office, and I frequently find myself using my cellphone (and personal computer) for work. Am I required to do this and if not, how can I respectfully set limitations?