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Ask the Advisor Roundup – Employees Behaving Badly

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bad employeeWe’ve all encountered THAT employee. The one that makes our job, well…interesting.

For everyone who has had to deal with a challenging employee, this one is for you. Here is a collection of client questions that BPHR’s Director Lisa Salcido has fielded recently in her bi-weekly “Ask the Advisor” Q&A. Take note. They cover topics that you one day may have to address at your own workplace.

Un-Timely Timesheets

Question: One of our employees is not submitting his timesheets in a timely manner. How do we handle habitual offenders, can we withhold pay?

Answer: This is a common struggle for employers and I understand the reaction to want to withhold pay. After all, the employee is holding up your process, shouldn’t you be able to hold their paycheck until their hours are submitted? Be advised, wage payment laws prevent this course of action. The Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division states that employers are ultimately responsible for recording employees’ hours and paying their employees for all hours worked. With the obligation solely on the employer, an employee’s failure to submit a timesheet cannot be remedied by withholding or threatening to withhold wages.

However, employees can be held accountable through disciplinary measures. First, be sure you have a clear policy explaining the company’s procedure for submitting timesheets in a timely fashion and the importance of accurate time records for payment and compliance with state and federal law. Next, handle timesheet submittal as a performance issue similar to when work project deadlines are not met. Follow your progressive discipline process, such as verbal onto written warnings for repeat offenders.

Direct Deposit Hold Out

Question – All of our employees, except for one, receive wage payments via direct deposit. Can we require the one employee to elect direct deposit or charge him a fee for the cost of printing checks?

Answer – Direct deposit is a very popular option with many benefits for employer and employee. I understand the inconvenience for just one manual check per pay period but State wage payment laws must be followed.

If your employee works in New Jersey, the following conditions must be met for an employer to pay employees via direct deposit:

  • Employees must first authorize payment by direct deposit;
  • Employees must be permitted to choose the financial institution; and
  • Employees must not incur added fees or costs as a result of participating in the employer’s program.

You should thoroughly explain the advantages of direct deposit to your employee, such as no trip to the bank, instant access to their pay even when they are out of the office on pay day, and no chance of losing a paper check. Hopefully your employee will change their mind and consent in writing to allow direct deposit, but you cannot require direct deposit.

In New Jersey, you cannot deduct wages for paycheck printing fees without the employee’s written approval. I would not recommend this approach, nor would I advise requesting the employee to reimburse the company by cash or check.

If your employee refuses direct deposit and frequently loses their check, stop payment and re-issuing fees can add up. I would recommend handling this as any other performance issue. Explain the time and cost involved when the employee is negligent with their paper check and that the employee would be subject to discipline in the same manner as employees with other performance issues.

Salary Slipper

Question: One of our managers overheard a few employees comparing pay rates. We would like prohibit our staff from discussing their wages with each other. Should we create a policy for the handbook?

Answer: I understand your preference for wanting to keep individual pay rates confidential but you cannot forbid your employees from discussing their compensation. Creating this policy would be unlawful as it interferes with employee rights. Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) states that employees have a right to join together in an effort to improve their pay, benefits and working conditions.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) considers salary discussion a “protected concerted activity.” These discussions are protected whether they occur in or out of the office or through written or electronic communication.

Of course, employees disclosing their pay rates can have a negative impact on morale. To minimize jealousy and claims of pay inequality, be sure compensation in your company is fair, justifiable and in line with education, experience and the marketplace.

Had enough?

BPHR to the rescue! With BPHR, Balance Point’s HR consulting service, an HR Generalist will integrate within your organization and can advise you when sensitive employee issues arise. With these worries out of the way, you can focus on more strategic tasks. Schedule a free phone consultation today.

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