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, April 26, 2013

Loss Prevention Is Lying To You

So you're called into the back room. It's a tiny one with no windows and only one door. In the room is someone who identifies himself as being from Loss Prevention. He seems so nice. He tells you he's there to help you save your job. If you only tell him what he wants to hear, you can go back to work.

He's lying! Don't fall for it. Everything you say can and will be held against you. Be careful.

He asks you some questions that make it clear you're being accused of doing something wrong. Maybe it's stealing from the company. Maybe just punching in wrong. Maybe a violation of some policy. He says he's trying to help you, so you tell him everything. Yes, you did use a plastic spoon from the deli and didn't pay for it. Yes, your boss gave you a candy bar and said it was going to be destroyed anyhow, so you took it and ate it. Yes, you used your employee discount to buy something for your best friend. Yes, you forgot to punch in, so you went in and wrote down your best estimate of the time you came in.

That wasn't very careful, was it? You've just confessed to doing something wrong. Maybe even a crime. But he's so nice. He tells you the only way you can save your job is to write down everything he tells you to write.

He's really lying now. Say no! Tell him that you will be glad to write your own statement in your own words, and tell him you'll provide it to him the next day. If he says you need to write what he says or be fired, you're already gone. Don't believe him for one teeny, tiny second.

He tells you to write down what you did, only the way he puts it sure makes it sound worse than it was. He conveniently leaves out how your boss told you to do it or said it was okay. He leaves out how others of, say a different race or sex, do it all the time and suffer no consequences. He has you write down that you understand you violated company policy. Then he tells you to sign it.

Tell him to pound sand. Do not do this. If you do it, you're fired, and possibly arrested.

Let's say you believe this guy and write it all down. What's going to happen next? He grabs it, maybe leaves the room for a couple minutes, then tells you that you're fired. You're escorted out like a criminal.

If you are called into a meeting with Loss Prevention, that's a meeting where you need to be very aware that you are being accused of doing something wrong and you're probably being fired. They are not your friend. When in doubt, tell them you want to leave and speak to an attorney. Yes, they can fire you for leaving, but that's way better than admitting to something you didn't do, or admitting to a crime. You can always write up your response to the accusations calmly after you've had a chance to think straight later and send them to HR.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Stand Up For Yourself Without Getting Fired

I thought I'd share with you today an interview I did with TJ Walker, who is an excellent media trainer with a regular internet TV show. We talk about my book, employment contracts, noncompete agreements and how you can negotiate a better severance package with your employer.

Ta da! My first video embed. I'm very excited that this worked. Maybe I'll actually figure out one of these days how to embed some videos I did where I actually appear on the video. . .

Friday, April 12, 2013

Employees: Tell Your Representatives To Vote No On These Terrible Laws

Remember last year's viral campaign ad? The one that said, "Wake the f*#k up?" America woke up, sort of, and then went right back to sleep. So I'm telling everyone who is an employee, and everyone who depends on an employee for their food, clothing and shelter, to wake back up.

Workers are under attack in a major way right now. There are terrible laws pending that will gut the few protections employees have in America. Need I say which party is proposing them? Probably not. Here are some laws that you should tell your legislators to vote no on. Tell them today. I'm serious.

Anti-overtime law: It sounds so sweet. So appealing. Don't be fooled. It's a trick. The Working Families Flexibility Act is as anti-working-family as you can get.  The folks trying to push this one say that it will allow employees to "voluntarily" choose to take a comp day instead of being paid time and a half for overtime. These are the same folks that say forcing employees to sign arbitration agreements and jury trial waivers in consideration of continued employment constitutes "voluntary" agreement. Employers will shove "Voluntary Comp Time Agreements" in front of all new employees faster than you can say, "in the pocket of corporate lobbyists." If you want to give up all your overtime, then stay asleep. Otherwise, wake up!

Anti-prevailing wage laws: In Florida, Nevada, Tennessee, Michigan and Missouri, bills are pending that would gut prevailing wage laws. These are laws that require government contractors to pay a higher wage than the state or federal minimum wage in areas with higher costs of living. The bill in Florida would result in a 40% pay cut for some workers. Can you afford a 40% pay cut. No? Then wake up!

Right to work laws: This sounds like justice personified. Everyone should have the right to work, right? Wrong. It's one of those  Orwellian names that means the opposite of what it says. It doesn't change the at-will doctrine that exists in 49 states, saying you can be fired for any reason, including your boss's bad mood. Instead, it is intended to gut the unions. Legislation is pending in Congress and in many states. It's bad stuff. Read my article on this topic here.

Anti-paid sick leave: Efforts to deny local governments the right to pass ordinances requiring paid sick leave have popped up all over. A corporate lobbying group is behind it. Watch for these laws in your state, and call and write your legislators to vote no if your state is being targeted.

Pro wage-theft: I wrote a couple weeks ago about the efforts to legalize wage theft in Florida. Here's my post on this.

How idiotic are these laws? Well, they certainly aren't pro-family, are they? I wonder who will buy all the products and visit the travel destinations of the corporations who support anti-employee laws once American employees are bankrupted. I fear we may find out soon enough if we don't stand up and fight while we can.

These are just a few of the many anti-worker laws that have proliferated this year so far. I bet you can think of some more. If you hear of legislation that is pending in your state or in Congress that Americans need to wake up over, let me know in the comments section and I'll be glad to do my part to spread the word.

Friday, April 5, 2013

The NFL Wants You (Unless You're Gay)

Here's a new post by my associate, Ryan Price. I think he's spot on with this important issue. If the military survived gays in the barracks, the NFL will survive gays in the locker room.

By:  Ryan Price

Are you ready for some football?!?!  The management of several National Football League (NFL) teams hope you are, unless of course you are homosexual.   In a not so shocking news story, several NFL teams questioned draft prospects about their sexual orientation at the annual scouting combine.  This story came not long after the Manti Te’o scandal, where the star Notre Dame player’s sexual orientation came into question after it was reported he was romantically involved with a fictitious girlfriend portrayed by a male. Now, Te’o’s draft status is in question because teams are afraid of what they may have to “deal with” down the road if news comes out that Te’o is indeed gay.  Why should this ever matter in any employment setting? At least in the NFL, Mike Florio of NBC sports says, “We have to step aside from the rest of reality and walk into the unique industry that is the NFL . . . .  Teams want to know whether Manti Te'o is gay. They just want to know. They want to know because in an NFL locker room, it's a different world. It shouldn't be that way." Is it really a different world? Is it really unique? Are there not homophobic and prejudiced people in many work environments?

Earlier this year backup San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver stated he would not welcome a gay teammate in his locker room. What would he do? Quit his high paying job as a backup? I don’t think so. In fact, unbeknownst to Culliver, he did play with a gay teammate. His teammate was outed not long after the Culliver controversy following a domestic dispute with his boyfriend. Of course there are gay players in the NFL and all other major American sports. However, most do not come out while they play, but that may be changing soon. The fact of the matter is, whether or not someone is a homosexual does not affect their job performance, unless perhaps they are faced with a hostile work environment. Hostile work environments begin and end with upper management. 

When management questions prospective employees on their sexual orientation, they are creating or endorsing such hostile environments. Most people, including Culliver, would not quit their job because their co-worker is gay.  However, employers will lose quality employees if they endorse such hostile work environments.  

The NFL released a statement following reports that teams were questioning draft prospects about their sexual orientation.  They simply stated, “teams are expected to follow applicable federal, state and local employment laws." Further, "It is league policy to neither consider nor inquire about sexual orientation in the hiring process. In addition, there are specific protections in our collective bargaining agreement with the players that prohibit discrimination against any player, including on the basis of sexual orientation." The league vowed that it would “look into the report [about the] scouting combine. Any team or employee that inquires about impermissible subjects or makes an employment decision based on such factors is subject to league discipline."

NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith commented, "I know that the NFL agrees that these types of questions violate the law, our CBA and player rights.”  However, to date, there have been no reports that the league has done anything about these “illegal” hiring practices. Perhaps that is because such interviewing questions are not illegal at all and these statements were simply released for PR purposes.
Are there any protections for employees or potential employees who are questioned about their sexual orientation during the hiring process or after they are hired? Unfortunately, the answer is usually no. There isn’t any federal law protecting employees against sexual orientation discrimination. In our country, it is mostly legal to discriminate and harass on the basis of sexual orientation. (Note: EEOC says that discrimination based on gender identity is illegal sex discrimination, but it remains to be seen whether the courts will see it that way.)

The tide is slowly changing.  More and more states, counties, and municipalities are passing laws against these heinous practices. Sexual orientation is irrelevant in the determination of a person’s qualifications for a job. In addition, these companies are sabotaging their own competitive position by filtering out homosexuals. By discriminating against employees based on their sexual orientation, companies are losing out on quality employees and also hurting their brand and image. Companies should hire the best of the best, not the best of the straight.

If you feel you have been discriminated against or harassed based on your sexual orientation you should check your state and local laws to find out what protections and redress you may have. Make sure to save copies of all applications and take notes following your interviews where you believe inappropriate questions were asked.  When in doubt, contact your local employee-side employment law attorney.