Your Human Resources Questions Answered

Q: We have a valued and cherished employee who has suddenly developed a serious medical condition. We are a small company with 17 employees. We would like to extend time off with pay to her, but it’s not our standard policy to do so. Can we do this?

A: As a business owner, you can certainly do as you wish, and she would benefit from the consideration you are giving her. One word of caution: In granting her this benefit, you are setting a precedent. Should other employees face a similar situation, would you treat them similarly? Treating one “special” employee uniquely does leave you open to potential claims of preferential treatment and discrimination going forward. Just be sure to consider the precedent you are setting when making accommodations for your “special” employees.

Q: I am new at my company. I have learned that our interview process is very loose. There is very little structure to what we ask and how we ask it. Do you have any recommendations?

A: Yes! The interview is a critical piece of the recruiting process and, if handled correctly, it can be effective. If not, it can be worthless or, worse yet, illegal. Here’s what we recommend:

  1. Know in advance who will be on the interview team and what questions will be asked.
  2. Use a panel interview where multiple people are interviewing the candidate at the same time.
  3. Ask the same or similar questions of all candidates.
  4. Stick to the script. Try not to get off track or be influenced by non-work related questions or conversations.
  5. Most importantly, avoid prohibited interview questions. You can find a list of them here.

Q: We have a new intern: the daughter of one of the owners. It’s an unpaid internship, but I thought those were illegal. Should we be paying her for the work she performs?

A: The answer is most likely yes. In recent years, the Department of Labor has issued clarifying guidance on what qualifies as a bona fide internship. For a review of that guidance, visit this site. Essentially, unpaid internships have to benefit the intern, not the employer. To be bona fide, courts have identified the following seven factors as a test:

  1. The extent to which the intern and the employer clearly understand that there is no expectation of compensation. Any promise of compensation, expressed or implied, suggests that the intern is an employee — and vice versa.
  2. The extent to which the internship provides training that would be similar to that which would be given in an educational environment, including the clinical and other hands-on training provided by educational institutions.
  3. The extent to which the internship is tied to the intern’s formal education program by integrated coursework or the receipt of academic credit.
  4. The extent to which the internship accommodates the intern’s academic commitments by corresponding to the academic calendar.
  5. The extent to which the internship’s duration is limited to the period in which the internship

This article was shared in C&R with the permission of the Restoration Industry Association.

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