Law: "Can my employer do that?"

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March 28, 2014 | 4:55 pm

Virtually every human-resource professional and employment lawyer has heard some version of that refrain. Below are the top 10 questions employment lawyers in Iowa commonly receive.

See if any of these sound familiar in your workplace from your employees.

1. Can my boss force me to work overtime?

Yes. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not restrict this management right. The FLSA merely states that an employer must pay overtime after 40 hours a week.

Of course, an employee may refuse to do so, but the employee risks termination.

2. Do I have to work Saturdays?

Yes. An employer has the right to ask an employee to work any time it wants, barring any religious accommodation.

While an employee does not have to accept it, the employee may have to quit or be fired if she or he doesn’t work the assigned hours. Instead the employee may try to negotiate a compromise — for example, ask if you can swap a different day off in that same week.

3. Do I get overtime after eight hours a day?

No. The FLSA is concerned with the workweek, not individual days. If an employee works more than 40 hours a week, she or he is entitled to overtime.

4. Can my boss monitor my computer?

Yes. An employer owns its equipment and anything an employee views or adds to it. Accordingly, an employer can monitor Internet use, the websites the employee has visited and employee emails.

An employer may have written policies regarding this issue in its company handbook.

5. Do I have to give two weeks’ notice to quit?

No, unless it is contained in the employee handbook, an employment contract or other documents from an employer as grounds for receiving severance pay or payment of earned but unused vacation or personal time.

There is no law that requires a two-week notice. However, it is a courtesy provided to an employer so it can locate a new employee to fill the job.

6. Can I obtain a copy of my personnel file?

Yes, while you are a current employee.

7. Does my employer have to give me paid sick leave?

No, although the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) may provide an employee with certain leaves of absence.

However, not everyone is covered. There are certain thresholds that must be met in order for an employee to be covered by this federal law.

Check out the Department of Labor’s website for more information.

8. Isn’t Iowa a right-to-work state? How can my employer fire me?

The right-to-work law has nothing to do with whether an Iowa employee can be fired. It is a term applicable to a unionized employer.

Call the National Labor Relations Board or check its website for details.

9. Am I guaranteed smoke breaks?

There is no law requiring an employer to provide an employee with smoke breaks.

Furthermore, an employer also can designate its property as a smoke-free campus completely and prohibit employees from smoking on it.

10. Does an employer have to provide a bathroom break?

Iowa law does not require it, although some believe the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rules requiring employers to provide toilet facilities implies timely access to use them.

Bathroom breaks and smoke breaks often become intertwined, however, and the frequency of either is what usually results in issues.

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