My employees often tell me they are
legally entitled to certain things at work, but I canít find any
laws that prove them right or wrong. How can I handle these demands?
Itís not uncommon for employees to
insist there are laws giving them certain workplace rights, when in
fact no such laws exist. Here are some common examples:
Cell phones: Have you
noticed employees are suddenly spending a great deal of work time
texting or using social media on their cell phones?
Employees have no legal right to
possess or use personal cell phones in the workplace. Employers may
prohibit employees from bringing cell phones to work entirely, or
may require that they be turned off and/or put away during the work
day. Of course during meal breaks, when employees do have the right
to leave the premises, they may use their cell phones.
Smoke Breaks: Smokers
may insist they have a right to more (or longer) breaks in order to
satisfy their nicotine habit.
Employees are of course entitled to a
certain number of 10-minute paid breaks based on the number of hours
they work, but during those breaks they may be required to remain on
the employerís premises.
Since smoking indoors in the workplace
is generally prohibited, and an employer may ban smoking anywhere on
its property, employees may be limited to smoking only during their
meal breaks and only off the property.
What do you do when your receptionist tells you her husbandís
Great-Uncle Joe has passed away, and sheíll be taking three days of
bereavement leave to go to the out-of-town funeral?
There is no federal or state law
giving employees a right to any bereavement leave in any situation,
no matter how close a relative has passed away. Most employers do
choose to give bereavement leave, but each employer may determine
what degree of relation is required to use such leave.
(Note: In California, if an employer
offers bereavement leave for the death of a spouse, it must also
offer the same for the death of a registered domestic partner.)
Choice of Vacation Days:
Your busiest month of the year is coming up, and an employee tells
you heíll be taking a two-week vacation to Tahiti right in the
middle of it.
Although your employee may have plenty
of vacation time in his vacation bank, he has no legal right to
demand to take vacation at any particular time. As an employer, you
may always approve or deny vacation requests based on legitimate
Be careful not to deny vacation
requests that may be seen as illegal retaliation, such as telling a
woman who has recently returned from pregnancy disability leave that
she canít take a vacation because she has already taken too much
time away from work.
Paid Family Leave:
You have 20 employees and one announces heíll be taking his six
weeks of Paid Family Leave when his baby is born next month.
The Paid Family Leave program is
simply an insurance policy that the state of California requires
employees to buy through a mandatory payroll deduction (which
provides wage replacement when an employee takes a leave when
bonding or to care for an ill family member), but it does not give
any employee a right to take a protected leave for baby bonding.
Unless an employee has a legal right
to baby bonding leave under the California Family Rights act or the
federal Family and Medical Leave Act, an employer is not required to
give an employee time off simply because wage replacement insurance
exists through the Paid Family Leave insurance program.
Source: California Chamber of Commerce, Alert