E-Communicator Article


Five Things Employees Think
They are Entitled to at Work ... But Aren't

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.


Bereavement Leave: 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 business needs.


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

August 2013 - CMSA Communicator

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