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HR & Legal Services FAQs

What is meant by the terms “exempt” or “non-exempt”?

Exempt – An individual is exempt from the overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act when they are classified as an executive, professional, administrative or outside sales employee, and meet the specific criteria for exemption. Exempt employees generally must be paid at least $455 per week on a salary basis. Non-exempt – An individual who is not exempt from the overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act must receive the overtime premium (time-and-one-half) for all hours worked beyond 40 in a workweek (as well as any state overtime provisions).

What should I avoid asking during an interview?

Interviews continue to be the selection method of choice for most employers because they allow for an in-depth questioning of a candidate, and offer an assessment of a potential candidate’s chances for success within the organization. Interviewers need to exercise a measure of caution in preparing interview questions. The interviewer should avoid asking discriminatory questions of a candidate, just as they would with employment applications. Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, employers may not consider any information about an applicant’s race, religion, creed, sex, national origin or ancestry in making any type of employment decision. There are other laws that also prohibit asking applicants questions regarding their age, disability, military history, union membership or sexual orientation.

When does an employee qualify for FMLA?

In order to be eligible to take leave under the FMLA, an employee must (1) work for a covered employer, (2) work 1,250 hours during the 12 months prior to the start of leave, (3) work at a location where 50 or more employees work at that location or within 75 miles of it, and (4) have worked for the employer for 12 months. The 12 months of employment are not required to be consecutive in order for the employee to qualify for FMLA leave. The regulations clarify, however, that employment prior to a continuous break in service of seven years or more need not be counted unless the break in service is (1) due to an employee’s fulfillment of military obligations, or (2) governed by a collective bargaining agreement or other written agreement.

What is the difference between an employee handbook and a policy manual?

A policy manual is the formal full set of policies relating to the workforce that your company has in place. It is usually written for the use of the company management team to make decisions relating to workplace issues. An employee handbook is written for employees in a style and format that is easy to use. The handbook may reference the policy manual, but is not written in such a formal way. The policy manual may have a section on vacation, for example, including exactly how vacation is accrued, when and how vacation can be requested, if earned vacation is paid upon termination, etc. The employee handbook would be a more informal listing of how many days of vacation are available each year, and perhaps provide a form for requesting them. While a policy manual could be several hundred pages long, depending on many factors, the employee handbook is usually a booklet.

Can an employer change a worker’s rate of pay?

Yes, under the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Law, as long as the affected employees are given prior notice of the change the payday before the time the change takes effect, and the rate of pay does not fall below the minimum wage. For example, if the normal payday (the day wages are paid) is on the 15th of the month, an employer could give written notice of a change in rate of pay any day before the 15th. All work done by for this employer after the 15th would then be at the new rate.

My business is no longer exempt from OSHA’s record-keeping requirements. Which forms do I use and where can I get them?

You will use the Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses (OSHA Form 300), the Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses (OSHA Form 300A), and the Injury and Illness Incident Report (OSHA Form 301). You must fill out the Log and the Incident Report only if a recordable work-related injury or illness has occurred. You must fill out and post the Summary annually, even if no recordable work-related injuries or illnesses occurred during the year. You can get the forms from OSHA’s Recordkeeping page.

Is it okay to allow our non-exempt employees to telecommute?

Yes, however, one issue that telecommuting raises for employers is an increased risk that non-exempt employees will work overtime hours for which they are not paid time-and-a-half, as required by federal law. Therefore, employers should have a telecommuting policy in which non-exempt employees are not permitted to work overtime without prior written authorization from management. Also, there should be a provision that explicitly requires certain procedures for monitoring and documenting the hours worked by non-exempt telecommuting employees, such as requiring these employees to submit daily timesheets and/or clock in and out from work via email, computer or telephone.

Do I have to provide my employees with paystubs? What kind of information should I include?

Under Pennsylvania law, you must give employees a pay-stub each pay period. The stub must include the number of hours actually worked; rate of pay; gross wages; deductions for taxes; and other deductions authorized by the employee. The pay-stub also has to state the beginning and ending dates of the pay period.

When do I have to issue her last pay check?

If an employee quits, is laid off, or fired, you must pay the employee all monies earned by the next scheduled pay day.