Q: How is full-time vs. part-time officially defined?
A: Many employers define part-time employees as those working under 40 hours per week, and offer pro-rated benefits for employees who work at least 20 hours per week. The Affordable Care Act defines a full-time employee as anyone working 30 or more hours per week. Your benefit contracts may provide some definition and guidance as well.
Q: How can I prevent inappropriate use of the internet during work hours?
A: Your Company should have a comprehensive policy about employees’ use of electronic equipment covering that their equipment is being provided for organizational use only during work hours; the equipment is owned by the organization and can be monitored, so employees should not expect privacy; and that sites being accessed (for business purposes) must comply with other employment policies, such as non-discrimination and non-harassment issues. Tracking software is also available that monitors the sites and usage time of employees. These programs also allow you to block access to certain categories of web sites. If you choose to monitor, be sure to monitor everyone, so you don’t single out one individual.
Q: Do I have to pay my employees overtime?
A: All blue collar positions, and white collar positions not exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act, must be paid overtime for all work in excess of 40 hours per week at the rate of 1 ½ time the regular rate of pay. There are six classes of white collar positions that qualify for exemption from mandatory overtime requirements. Those are Executive, Administrative, Professional, Outside Sales, Computer Professional, and highly compensated employees. There are special overtime rules that apply to government agencies, hospitals, canneries, and manufacturing establishments. An employer may determine an employee’s work schedule and hours, and require that employees work mandatory overtime when required to complete assignments. In addition, employers may discipline or terminate employees who refuse to work scheduled overtime. Also, there are some states with special regulations affecting those employed in that state so state laws should be considered as well in calculating overtime payments.
Q: If I employ a veteran, do I have to give them Veteran’s Day off?
A: Although Veterans Day is one of 10 official federal holidays, most employers do not give their workers the day off as a paid holiday, according to survey findings detailed today by Bloomberg BNA, a leading publisher of specialized news and information. But each state has its own legal holidays that reflect their unique history and culture. Whether an employee must be paid for a holiday, and whether that employee must be paid holiday pay if they work on a holiday, are governed by employment law. Whether your employer gives you time off for a holiday is generally up to their discretion. In many businesses, like retail and restaurants, holidays are their busiest time, and someone has to work. However, employers cannot discriminate against you when giving time off. For example, an employer cannot force you to work on a religious holiday because they know that you don’t practice that religion.
Q: Is an employee who is involved in a car accident while running company-related errands covered by Workers’ Compensation and who is responsible for an employee-owned vehicle?
A: Since the employee was working, he/she will more than likely be covered by Workers’ Compensation for medical and time loss. Exceptions to this may be if it can be shown that the employee was not working at the time, for instance, possibly doing personal grocery shopping or another personal errand at the time. Unless your insurance policy covers otherwise, the employee’s auto insurance will be primary for vehicle damage and liability. It is a good idea to ask employees for proof of current insurance coverage if their job involves driving their own vehicle for work. Also, let employees know their coverage will be primary in case of an accident.
Q: What are the rules regarding meal breaks and rest breaks; and do the rules regarding meal and rest breaks differ for part-time and full-time employees?
A: In almost every state, the rules are the same for breaks and become self-explanatory regarding part-time and full-time employees: an employee is entitled to a minimum of a 30-minute unpaid meal period when an employee works more than five hours a day. (Splitting hairs a bit, in California a 30-minute meal period must be given to an employee who works a five hour day, but not if the work can be completed within six hours.) A 10-minute rest break is required for every four hours worked – or fraction thereof. (In California, no rest period is required for employees working less than three and a half hours.) The federal Fair Labor Standards Act does not require breaks, meals, and rest periods, so you must check into your own state’s code. Many organizations simplify the process by giving 15-minute break periods morning and afternoon and anywhere from 30-minute to one-hour lunch periods. Employees must be relieved of all duties during their meal and break periods or the time is considered work time and has to be paid.
Q: Do the rules regarding meal and rest breaks differ for part-time and full-time employees? And may we require employees to take their meal periods on company premises?
A: You can compel an employee to take their meal periods on company premises. If employees are habitually late returning from meal breaks, you can, of course, dock their pay and notify employees of this practice ahead of time by stating it in the employee handbook or manual.
Q: Do employees have a right to privacy in regard to their desks, computers, lockers, etc.?
A: The desk and contents other than personal property belong to the organization. The organization has the right to “search” an employee’s desk, file cabinets, and so on. With proper notice and reason, you may also search an employee’s purse, briefcase, and other personal belongings. We suggest clear statements about organization “ownership” of desk and file cabinet contents are part of the Employee Handbook.
Q: If driving is an essential part of an employee’s job and this is reflected in the written job description, how do we handle the situation if the employee’s license has been suspended?
A: You have essentially two options. You can see if you have a temporary position you can transfer them to which does not require driving or a current driver license. Be sure that they are aware that once their license is returned, they can go back to their original position, if it is open and available and they meet all other conditions of a transfer (i.e. acceptable performance, attendance, etc.). The second option is to terminate their employment based on the fact that they are no longer able to perform an essential function of their job. NOTE: This is yet another example of why it is so important to have a current job description which outlines the essential functions of the job and any job requirements, such as a current license.
Q: Is employee time spent donning (putting on) or doffing (removing) required to be paid?
A: Yes, when employees are required to wear protective gear, clothing, and uniforms on the job the time spent donning (putting on) or doffing (taking off) is work time when the employer requires it for the job. The Fair Labor Standards Act requires employees be compensated for all time the employee is required to be on the employer’s premises performing work. Courts have held that activities related to the employee’s principal job are part of the continuous work day and the time spent in these activities must be paid. If employees are required, for example, to wear special clothing before going out on the production floor, the time spent putting on the clothing at the start of the shift and removing the clothing at the end of the shift is compensation.