Well, 8,000 HR/benefits pros can’t be wrong, right? Employers Resource Association has released the top 10 topics that send HR managers to call its hotline in droves. The list is based on the more than 8,000 calls the association says the hotline receives each year.  The top 10 are:

1. Family and Medical Leave Act, including questions on: Who is covered? What is deemed a serious health condition? How can we control intermittent leave?

2.  Termination. According to ERA, this is a close second, with common requests including: What documentation is needed to fire someone? Does a recent workers’ compensation claim or FMLA request affect the decision? Can an employee sue for termination?

3.  Performance management strategies, with queries 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.

4.  Fair Labor Standards Act. ERA finds pros’ concerns center 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 labor rules. In addition, pros often ask: How much time can we ignore at clock-in or out?  Can we round?

5.  Immigration. Many questions arise regarding I-9 documentation and procedural questions, ERA finds. Such as: What do we do when a Social Security number comes back as 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?

6.  Lunch hour and breaks. Questions surround policies on 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. According to ERA, practitioners ask: 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? We have employees in other states; are the rules different there?

8.  Independent contractor versus employee. 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?

9.  Employee privacy. In opening this can of worms, employers want to know: Can we read employee emails or monitor Internet usage? What about the use of surveillance cameras — is it legal? Can we search employees, their workspace, belongings or cars?

10.  Drug and alcohol issues. ERA finds HR/benefits pros most ask: 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?

(Outside the top 10 among the more, shall we say, unique subject areas pros ask about: employees bringing bed bugs to work and how to implement a policy to prohibit texting while driving.)

I think this list is pretty spot-on, but what do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments. 

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