Discipline, performance management among list of top HR questions in U.S.

Nearly 8,000 calls received by ERA hotline each year
|hrreporter.com|Last Updated: 03/16/2012

With the economy showing signs of improvement, more companies hiring and salary increases being reported, what questions are human resources professionals asking so far in 2012? For the second consecutive year, questions on HR “staples” such as the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), performance management, discipline and termination continue to generate the highest demand, according to the Employers Resource Association (ERA).

The organization, which specializes in HR consulting, training, development, legal updates, news and information, released its list of top 10 questions received by its HR hotline — nearly 8,000 calls come in each year from human resources professionals.

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,” said Dan Chaney, director of HR advisory services at ERA. “The common questions we receive centre around hiring and firing, leave management, access to personnel records, drug testing, immigration rules and classifying independent contractors.”

Most popular questions for ERA’s hotline:

1. FMLA is the single most asked-about topic — who is covered; what is deemed a serious health condition; and how to control intermittent leave.

2. Advice and counsel for taking such adverse actions as termination, suspension and discipline — what documentation is needed to fire someone; does a recent workers’ compensation claim or FMLA request affect the decision being made; can the employee sue for termination?

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 who may not be working out or on a protected-class employee who isn’t responding to counseling? Also, group performance issues concurrent with culture changes or business cycle needs.

4. Fair Labor Standards Act issues — concerns centre on correctly classifying a position as exempt, calculating overtime for multiple rates, what travel hours must be paid for an hourly employee, what are federal and state child labour rules. In addition, how much time can we ignore at clock-in or out? Can we round?

5. Immigration — many questions regarding documentation and procedural questions.

6. Lunch hour and breaks — Questions about giving breaks and how many per day. Is a lunch period required? What has to be paid versus non-paid time? Can an employee work through break and leave early?

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 her the files? We have employees in a few other states, are the rules different there?

8. Independent contractor versus employee — What’s the difference? Why can’t I just pay this person as a contractor? What constitutes a legal independent contractor status? Who makes the rules?

9. Employee privacy — Can we read employee emails or monitor Internet usage? What about the use of surveillance cameras, is it legal? Can we search employees or their workplace, belongings or cars? Can we use GPS technology to monitor employees? What about employees who use company-provided smart phones?

10. Drug and alcohol issues — Under what conditions can employees be tested? If the employee tests positive, can we discharge? How can a drug test procedure be set up, what should be in the policy?

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