Slideshows

"HR Hotline, how may I help you?" Your top 10 queries revealed.

No. 1: Queries about the Family and Medical Leave Act No. 1: Queries about the Family and Medical Leave Act

Who is covered? What is deemed a serious health condition? How to control intermittent leave? ERA has heard it all, and reveals FMLA is the most asked-about topic for the second straight year.

No. 2: Advice and counsel on adverse actions like termination, suspension and discipline No. 2: Advice and counsel on adverse actions like termination, suspension and discipline

A close second to FMLA questions, commonly requested information includes: What documentation is needed to fire someone? Does a recent workers’ compensation claim or FMLA request affect that decision? Can an employee sue for termination?

No. 3: Performance management strategies No. 3: Performance management strategies

Strategies for dealing with a problem employee such as: Is it safe to ramp up the heat on a new hire that may not be working out or on a protected-class employee that isn’t responding to counseling? Also, group performance issues concurrent with culture changes or business cycle needs.

No. 4: Fair Labor Standards Act issues No. 4: Fair Labor Standards Act issues

Common queries include: How do we correctly classifying a position as exempt? How do we calculate overtime for multiple rates? What travel hours must be paid for an hourly employee? What are federal and state child labor rules? How much time can we ignore at clock-in or out? Can we round?

No. 5: Questions about immigration policies No. 5: Questions about immigration policies

Many questions arise regarding I-9 documentation and procedural questions. Such as: What do we do when a Social Security Number comes back a no-match? An applicant has a matching SSN and ID, but we know it is not his; what can we do? We’re considering employing an H1-B employee: How complicated is that?

No. 6: Lunch hour and breaks No. 6: Lunch hour and breaks

Common examples: Is a lunch period required? What has to be paid versus non-paid time? Can an employee work through break and leave early?

No. 7: Employee access to personnel files No. 7: Employee access to personnel files

Does the law require us to allow an employee to see or copy his file? What are the pros and cons of allowing it versus not? We just got a letter from an attorney requesting files; do we have to send them the files? We have employees in a few other states; are the rules different there?

No. 8: Independent contractor vs. employee? No. 8: Independent contractor vs. employee?

According to ERA, hotline operators routinely get asked: What’s the difference between an independent contractor and an employee? Why can’t I just pay this person as a contractor and issue a 1099? What constitutes a legal independent contractor status? Who makes the rules?

No. 9: Questions about employee privacy No. 9: Questions about employee privacy

Lots of “Is it legal?” queries on this topic, including: Can we read employee emails or monitor Internet usage? What about the use of surveillance cameras? Can we search employees, their workspace, belongings or cars? Can we use GPS technology to monitor our employees? What about employees that use company provided smartphones?

No. 10: How to address drug and alcohol issues No. 10: How to address drug and alcohol issues

Under what conditions can employees be tested? If an employee tests positive, can we discharge him? How can a drug test procedure be set-up? What should be in the policy?

Employers Resource Association, an organization specializing in HR consulting, news and information, released its list of top 10 questions received by its HR Hotline, which receives more than 8,000 calls each year. "Demands on HR professionals have increased dramatically since the recession began and our members continue to be challenged to handle more tasks and issues with fewer resources," says Dan Chaney, SPHR, director HR advisory services for ERA. "The common questions we receive center around hiring and firing, leave management, access to personnel records, drug testing, immigration rules and classifying independent contractors." (Images: Thinkstock)

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