Have a general question about employment law? Want to share a story? I welcome all comments and questions. I can't give legal advice here about specific situations but will be glad to discuss general issues and try to point you in the right direction. If you need legal advice, contact an employment lawyer in your state. Remember, anything you post here will be seen publicly, and I will comment publicly on it. It will not be confidential. Govern yourself accordingly. If you want to communicate with me confidentially as Donna Ballman, Florida lawyer rather than as Donna Ballman, blogger, my firm's website is here.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Lies Your Employer Tells You

Employees, for the most part, believe everything their employer tells them. Most of the time, your employer's interests and yours coincide. You have a job to do, and they want you to do it. But sometimes, those interests collide. Sometimes, you have to take what your employer says with a grain of salt. Other times, they're flat-out lying.

Here are some lies your employer may tell you, and why you shouldn't believe them:

You have to resign: Flat-out lie. Nobody can make you quit your job. They may want you to sign a letter of resignation. That means they probably get out of paying unemployment, and may be able to convince a judge or jury that you left willingly instead of being forced out. Don't resign unless you're getting a severance package or something else that makes it worth it.

Sign this and you can keep your job: Depends on what it is. If you're told by the Risk Management guy who locked you in a room for hours and accused you of stealing that you can keep your job if you admit to stealing, it's a lie. You'll be fired and possibly arrested as soon as you sign. If it's a noncompete agreement, there are states that allow your employer to say, "sign or be fired." My state, Florida, is one of them. Some states don't allow this. Check with an employment lawyer in your state before you give up your right to work for a competitor.

These are never enforced: Horse hockey. Flat-out lie. Why would your employer ask you to sign an agreement that's never enforced? It's because they think it will be enforced. Anyone who tells you otherwise is a liar. Before you sign something you think won't be enforceable, check with an employment lawyer in your state.

We'd never do that: Flat-out lie. If your employer is trying to get you to agree that you give up your copyright to your novel, your rights to the video game you're designing in your spare time, or your LinkedIn contacts, they're lying if they say they would never actually invoke that part of the agreement. They wouldn't ask you to sign it if they didn't intend to enforce it.

We've never enforced this before: That may be true, but it doesn't mean you won't be the first. If they don't intend to enforce a noncompete, an intellectual property agreement or other provision, they shouldn't have a problem deleting it. Otherwise, assume the worst.

We're here to help: HR may tell you they're the employee's friend. They may be able to help you as long as your interests align with the company's, but they exist to protect the company, not you. You may have to report sexual harassment, apply for FMLA leave, or seek disability accommodations through them, but that doesn't make them your friend or ally. Do what you have to do, but put it in writing. Cover yourself. You can bet HR is covering the company.

Those are just some of the lies you may be told at work. Don't be fooled. Can you think of other lies your employers have told you? I'd love to hear about it.


  1. Hi Donna:

    Great piece! Here's another one--"We're all like family here." Bull! And by the way, I AM an HR professional, although I've left the corporate environment to pursue freelance writing. I know which side of the fence I belong, and it ain't with these jokers.

    1. Good one! So glad you enjoyed it Crystal!

    2. When I hear about the betrayal, contempt and 'honour killings' that some people experience at the hands of their actual families, maybe this one isn't really too far off the mark.

  2. Great point Jackie! I always try to remind people that HR represents the company, not employees.

  3. I work for local government and they've done these EXACT things to me!OMG! can you believe a GOVERNMENT DHHS would do this to a NURSE? I was stupid enough to do what they said. But then I filed for unemployment, and GOT it. they had to pay. LOL! then I got back in, via an agency assignment, into another department, 2 weeks later, 8 months later, I was re-hired. Now, 13 yrs later, they are attempting other horseplay, but I'm just getting copies of my employee files and starting my retirement process, which will be in 8 months.I've had enough of these abusive clowns.

    1. Good for you, ocdgirl! I hope it works out for you. Hang in there.

  4. Auto sales people get the bad rap for greedy owners. We get lied to. Ripped off daily. These owners think we low lifes that fuel their jets are just scum they will replace after they workave to us 60 hours a week.
    Meanwhile we have to be certified with all the manufacturers. Get perfect surveys back even when the dealer screwed the customer over.
    What do we get after 25 years? Nothing. The factory worker gets a pension and healthcare like a state senator.
    Dealers will never change. We will never get anything but divorced 3 times.
    I am advocating a union or licencing in all states with mandatory pensions through the licensing states or the federal government.
    Hours and pay needs a scale.
    For too long car dealers have run over good hard working and "yes" honest people trying to make a living in a business they didn't usually pick.
    We demand to be treated like any other professional who must have continuing education. We do it every year. For every new model or we are fired. Unite. Send some leaders to the blog and maybe we can make a difference.

  5. Hey Donna great article - I wish I had found it before I accepted my current position. Basically everything I was told by the recruiter and the company in 2 interviews was a lie. 3 days after I started the position I was given another/ different contract and pressured into signing it. The environment is abusive and hostile.

    I am looking to get out ASAP but other employers are shying away from a someone who wants to leave 2 months into a new position. I am very concerned about making a living, and what will happen to my career.

    I am very wary of what employers say now. What is acceptable to ask for in writing? What will sound over demanding?

    Any thoughts on the best way to protect myself?



I appreciate your comments and general questions but this isn't the place to ask confidential legal questions. If you need an employee-side employment lawyer, try http://exchange.nela.org/findalawyer to locate one in your state.