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Q AND A: Can late time sheet cancel wages?

Question: My son works for a nonprofit organization. He didn't fill out a time sheet in the time allotted, and the managers said it was too late for him to get paid for the time he worked. Can they legally refuse to pay him?...

Question: My son works for a nonprofit organization. He didn't fill out a time sheet in the time allotted, and the managers said it was too late for him to get paid for the time he worked. Can they legally refuse to pay him?

Answer: If your son worked, he has to be paid. A late time sheet doesn't nullify that.

"You can't violate the law because an employee did not perform a function properly" or in a timely manner, said Irv Miljoner, who heads the Long Island office of the U.S. Labor Department. "You still have to pay for all hours worked."

Companies can discipline workers who are lax about important procedures such as submitting time sheets, but the punishment cannot break the law.

"That is something you address as a performance issue," he said. The employee's breach "does not relieve the employer of the responsibility of paying for all hours worked."

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Whether your son is an exempt or nonexempt employee he has to be paid. If he is nonexempt, he has to be paid for all hours worked.

Nonexempt employees generally are hourly employees and fall outside the administrative, executive, professional and outside-sales categories.

Exempt employees have to make at least $455 a week, with few exceptions, in exchange for being exempt from overtime and minimum wage.

Who knows if the group refused to pay him for the reasons it stated? Increasingly companies with cash-flow problems aren't paying employees, Miljoner said. But whatever its reasons, the group is breaking the law by not paying your son.

For more information call the U.S. Labor Department at 212-264-8185.

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Q: I am one of eight employees in my husband's small but busy company. One of the receptionists has had health and personal problems and has missed work frequently. She is now in the hospital, and we expect her back soon but don't know when.

I fill in, but I can't carry out her primary task, which is to translate for many of our customers. The other two receptionists speak the customers' language a little; I don't. So because of the employee's absences, we have a hard time providing service to many of our customers. I would like to hire a replacement. Are there any legal implications?

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A: You have to show some consideration but not forever.

New York human rights law, which would cover a company your size, requires employers to offer reasonable accommodations to employees with medical problems, said employment attorney Richard Kass, a partner at Bond, Schoeneck & King in Manhattan.

"The employer must engage in a good-faith dialogue with the employee to determine if it is possible to work out a way to enable the employee to perform the essential functions of her job without undue hardship to the employer," he said.

"Reasonable accommodation" and "undue hardship" are key elements here, as they are under the Americans With Disabilities Act, which covers larger companies.

Depending on the circumstances, a short-term leave of absence may be considered reasonable, Kass said.

Important factors would include how soon the employee will be able to return to work and whether you could hire a temporary replacement.

But Kass cautioned, "Without knowing more details about the situation, it is impossible to determine whether that is the case here."

Still, you have the right to the replacement at some point.

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"If the employer has fulfilled its duty to offer reasonable accommodations and the employee still does not adequately perform the essential functions of her job, then the employer may terminate her employment," Kass said.

Carrie Mason-Draffen is a columnist for Newsday and the author of "151 Quick Ideas to Deal With Difficult People." Readers may send her e-mail at carrie.draffen@newsday.com .

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