Q & A: Handling Various Leave Issues


Question Corner

Handling Various Leave Issues

By Jason R. Mau

Q: Our company offers three weeks of paid maternity leave for the general employee population. We are wanting to offer executive-level employees five weeks of paid maternity leave.  Are there any issues with this?

A:  From a purely legal discrimination perspective, no.  Idaho has not adopted any law which forbids your company from providing different classes of employees different leave benefits as long as the different classes of employees are set on a nondiscriminatory basis (such as duration or level of employment).

Q: We have a few nonexempt salaried workers who excessively violate our attendance policy. Can we discipline them by reducing their work hours? They would remain full-time, and benefits wouldn’t be effected, but their annual salary obviously would be reduced.

A: Yes, as long as the policy is being consistently enforced, a reduction in hours for disciplinary purposes is allowed, but under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), you will be required to ensure that the employees’ regular rates, as calculated under the FLSA, are the same as they would have been if the occasion for the deduction had not occurred. 

Q: We hired a former volunteer in a part-time temporary position. She worked for five days and then didn’t return to work. Her manager attempted to reach her several times and then decided to terminate her based on our “no call, no show” policy. A coworker was able to make contact with the employee on social media, and she mentioned that she had some mental health issues. Do we have any obligation to start the interactive process at this point?

A: Depending on the context in which the coworker reached out and how this information was shared, a request for an accommodation may have been made by the employee.  The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) requires the interactive process be initiated by the employee, yet no special words are required to initiate the process.  The employer may have an obligation to enter into this process if the employee attempted to explain that the mental illness interfered with her ability to attend work and call in when she was unable to attend.  Of course, even if the circumstances require the interactive process here, a reasonable accommodation is not required if it will impose an undue hardship on the company. 

Q: Can we require an employee to get treatment for alcohol abuse even though he was never sent for testing? This would be based on his known history.

A: Idaho law does not require a test prior to requiring such treatment as employers are not required to tolerate alcohol-related conduct that affects the employee’s ability to do his job.  While the employee is ultimately responsible for his performance, and problems related to alcohol abuse are generally not afforded legal protection, once the employee is provided with rehabilitation or treatment, he may acquire rights that might be protected under the ADA. 

Jason R. Mau is an attorney with Greener Burke Shoemaker Oberrecht, P.A.  He can be reached at 208-319-2600 or jmau@greenerlaw.com.