The Washington Post

@Work Advice: Is what my employer is doing legal? Some advice.

(Deb Lindsey/For The Washington Post)

Welcome to the @Work Advice lightning round, answering one question: Is what my employer is doing legal? A yes answer means the described situation is generally legal. The reader can protest or refuse to participate, but not on legal grounds. A no answer means the situation seems to violate at least one labor law.

Reader: My husband and I receive medical coverage through his employer under a family plan. Now his employer has announced a “spousal surcharge” of $25 per pay period for any worker whose insurance plan includes a spouse who qualifies for medical coverage from his or her own employer. Is this legal? It seems like discrimination against working spouses.

Legal? Yes.

Deb Keary, vice president for HR, Society for Human Resource Management: Working spouses are not a protected class. Your best bet would be to decide which is more cost effective: to stay on your spouse’s plan with the surcharge, or to go with your employer’s plan.

Elaine Fitch, employment attorney, Kalijarvi, Chuzi, Newman & Fitch: Employees who add their spouses/families to the plan are getting a significantly greater benefit than single employees.

Reader: Our small company is extremely busy during eight months of the year; taking vacation time during those eight months is frowned upon but not forbidden. Our HR person has posted a board with the names of people taking vacation, how many days, where they are going and why. Is this okay?

Legal? Yes, but ...

Deb Keary: Although not illegal under these facts, it would be worth protesting to management. There are surely better ways to encourage employees to take vacation at a good time than to resort to measures that could cause embarrassment or be considered intimidation.

Karla: Posting leave dates, okay. To “why,” I’d respond, “I prefer not to discuss it, but I wouldn’t be taking off now if I could avoid it.” No need to play “Justify My Leave.”

Reader: I am a health-care worker earning an hourly wage. I am occasionally required to attend meetings that are a one- to two-hour drive from the office. We’ve recently been instructed to not clock in or out, and we’ll just automatically be paid for eight hours, even if we’re gone 11-plus hours. Please let me know if this is acceptable or if I need to speak up further.

Legal? Nope.

Elaine Fitch: This reader needs to file a claim with the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division.

Ask Karla Miller about your work dramas and traumas by e-mailing Read more @Work Advicecolumns.

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Karla L. Miller offers advice on surviving the ups and downs of the modern workplace. Miller, of South Riding, Va., was the winner of the 2011 @Work Advice Contest. E-mail your questions to Karla at



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