HR Base Camp Roundup – November 7th, 2022

In this week’s edition of the HR Base Camp roundup, we discuss random drug tests (including whether the test is even really “random” in the first place), taking your staff on a trip that you possibly need to pay them for attending, and how to implement a smart tuition reimbursement policy. Check it out now!

Here are the HR Q&As from our HR Base Camp Facebook Group and HR Solution Center:

 

When doing a “random” drug test, what things should employers keep in mind?

I’m considering starting to randomly drug test certain employees. Is there anything I need to do beforehand?

First things first: if you only want to test certain employees, it’s not actually a random drug test. True random drug testing is done through a third party company and they’re the ones who decide which employees get tested each time – the employer doesn’t get to pick and choose.

What you’re likely referring to is reasonable suspicion testing. This type of testing occurs when you suspect an employee of being under the influence because you have witnessed objective signs of impairment. This means that you can pick who you’re drug testing, but you can’t pick them simply because you have a “hunch” or you heard that they party on the weekends. Your reason for testing them must be based on your observation of behavior that could be attributed to drugs or alcohol, or some other kind of evidence (i.e. you found an open bottle of alcohol at their workstation). If there’s no reasonable suspicion or evidence that these employees are impaired at work, testing them would be extremely risky.

You should also be aware of what relevant state laws are in place. Some states have passed laws that prohibit employers from taking adverse action against employees based solely on the basis of positive drug tests for certain substances. Be mindful of this if you do come across a positive drug test in the future.

 

If you’re the best boss ever and want to take your employees on a voluntary weekend trip, do you need to pay them for it?

I want to take my staff on a voluntary long weekend trip as a thank you for all of the hard work they’ve put in this past year. Am I required to pay them for this time?

We love to hear about employers providing this kind of fun activity for their staff. Employee appreciation plays a huge part in keeping employees engaged, which is beneficial for everyone.

The answer to this question depends on the details of the trip. Assuming the trip is 100% voluntary and there’s NO productive work or training being done, you would not be required to pay your staff.

Now, if you’re planning on having any sort of training, team building activities, or continuing education during this trip, that is considered work time and must be paid. Because pay requirements surrounding trips can vary based on so many different factors, we recommend reaching out to CEDR to help you determine exactly what time should be paid based on the details of your trip.

We also recommend considering how the trip would impact an employee’s pay for that week. In making it a long weekend you may be closing the office for a full or partial day. While an employee may have fun on the trip, that doesn’t mean they aren’t going to be stressed out about getting less money in their next paycheck. A fun trip doesn’t pay the bills!

For this reason you may want to consider paying the employees for the time they normally would’ve worked had you not been closed. Or, allowing them to put in some extra hours earlier in the week. You may have some members of your team who can’t attend the trip, for any number of reasons. You should consider their potential loss of work hours as well.

The key to staying compliant when offering a trip like this is to clearly communicate the details of the trip to your employees, including what will and won’t be paid for, and make sure everyone is aware of their options before they make a decision about attending.

 

How can employers ensure they are making a good investment when offering tuition reimbursement to their employees?

Lately I’ve seen many employers offering tuition reimbursement as a benefit. If I pay for an employee’s classes, can I have them sign a contract guaranteeing that they will continue to work for me for a certain amount of time?

Tuition reimbursement benefits have indeed become more common in the past couple of years. And if it’s something that you’re able to offer, it can certainly help draw in more candidates. Many employers that are interested in offering this kind of benefit have the same question when it comes to getting a guarantee of employment from the employee. After all, if you’re putting up the money for their classes, shouldn’t you guarantee that there’s a benefit for you too?

The short answer is yes, you can set up an agreement that requires your employee to agree to stay employed with you for a specific period of time to “reimburse” you for the tuition payment. However, this kind of agreement comes with major drawbacks. To start, it can alter the at-will employment status of the employee. If you found yourself needing to terminate this employee in the future, they could claim that there was an expectation of future employment and therefore they don’t have to pay back the tuition. You could be left chasing after the employee for payment. This is a time consuming hassle that no employer wants to deal with. Altering at will employment can also create a greater liability if the employee were to file a claim for wrongful termination.

So, what can you do instead? CEDR’s recommendation is to provide a true reimbursement benefit. This means that instead of paying for the cost up front and asking the employee to stay for a certain amount of time, the employee pays for the cost of their class(es) and you reimburse at different intervals. For example, you can reimburse $500 every 6 months. You can set these numbers to whatever works best for you, but this method allows for more flexibility since neither you or the employee are locked into an agreement. With this method, if the employee chooses to leave, they’re giving up the money as opposed to walking away from a debt.

At CEDR, we help employers protect their businesses and build stronger teams. Because stronger teams build better workplaces, and better workplaces make better lives.

Have an HR question you need to talk through with an HR expert? Reach out to the Solution Center for expert guidance, or get your questions answered in our private, professional Facebook Group, HR Base Camp.

Nov 7, 2022

Friendly Disclaimer: This information is general in nature and is not intended to provide legal advice or replace individual guidance about a specific issue with an attorney or HR expert. The information on this page is general human resources guidance that is believed to be current as of the date of publication. Note that CEDR is not a law firm, and as the law is always changing, you should consult with a qualified attorney or HR expert who is familiar with all of the facts of your situation before making a decision about any human resources or employment law matter.
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