No Recourse on Shift From Days to Nights
Q. While my company operates around the clock, I was originally hired two years ago to work the day shift.
Now the night crew wants to be transferred to days, and I am concerned that I may be switched to a night shift.
Is it legal for my employer to force me to work the night shift when my offer letter did not mention a night shift?
What steps can I take to remain on the day shift?
--B.G., Lake Forest
A. Unless you have a contractual right to remain on the day shift, the law permits employers to reassign employees to different work schedules as it deems necessary.
You say your offer letter did not mention a night shift. If it did not specifically guarantee you the day shift, however, you would not likely have a contractual right to remain on the day shift. Even if the offer letter mentioned the day shift, it still might not be binding, if there is other language in the offer letter or the employee handbook reserving the employer’s right to maintain flexibility with respect to work assignments.
You can certainly express to your employer your strong desire to remain on the day shift, and remind her or him that it was your understanding when you were hired that you would be working days. It appears doubtful, however, that you would have any legal recourse in the event your employer decides to make a change.
--James J. McDonald Jr.
Attorney, Fisher & Phillips LLP
Labor law instructor, UC Irvine
Fired Employee’s Final Check Due Immediately
Q. When an employer terminates someone, how long does the company have to hand out the employee’s final check? I have heard everything from 24 to 72 hours.
--K.H., Playa del Rey
A. When an employer terminates an employee, the California Labor Code requires that the employee be given a final paycheck immediately. The check must include all earned wages and all pay for accrued but unused vacation.
If the employee resigns without giving at least 72 hours’ notice, the employer has 72 hours in which to give the employee the final paycheck. Employees who have given 72 hours’ notice must be paid at the time they quit.
--Josephine Staton Tucker
Employment law attorney
Morrison & Foerster
Turn Poor Interview Into a Lesson Learned
Q. I recently interviewed with a government agency for an entry-level position. The application included a written test and a request for previous experience.
There were about 300 people in the original pool, and I was one of three applicants interviewed for the job.
The interview was very formal, in front of a panel of city administrators. I don’t believe that I did well in that environment because my personality style is more informal. I would have been more comfortable in a less formal setting, instead of answering questions as if I were a finalist in the Miss America pageant.
Is it too late to recoup? What do you suggest I do to influence them in my favor?
Should I write a letter, or perhaps contact them by phone to try to impress them in a more personal way?
A. Informing the interviewers that you were uncomfortable in the panel interview situation is probably not going to help you.
If there is someone that you had some direct contact with at the agency, you might call them to thank them for the opportunity to interview. You might mention that you felt that you could have done better in the interview.
The best thing you can do is to learn from this experience. You may encounter similar interview situations in the future, and you should prepare for them.
The next time you are scheduled for an interview, ask about the interview format--such as who and how many individuals will be interviewing you--so that you will be better prepared mentally. You might even practice interviewing in front of friends.
--Ron Riggio, director
Kravis Leadership Institute
Claremont McKenna College
Out-of-State Contract Might Apply Here Too
Q. I am a chemical salesperson who 10 years ago signed a contract with my present employer that states that I cannot contact existing customers for 18 months after leaving the company.
All my customers are in California, but the contract says the agreement is “governed by the laws of Pennsylvania.”
I find myself now very interested in working for a different chemical supplier. Does this contract hold any validity in the state of California?
--J.S., Long Beach
A. It depends on two factors. First, there would have to be some legitimate basis for applying the law in California to your situation. If your employer is in Pennsylvania, and you entered into your employment agreement in Pennsylvania, there is some potential that the laws of that state would apply.
Second, if California law applies, your promise not to contact customers would not be enforceable if you had a straight employment agreement with your employer.
However, you should be aware that even if the contract is not enforceable, there are statutes that would prohibit you from using your current employer’s trade secrets to compete with it once you leave. Under certain circumstances, your knowledge of your current employer’s customers, or its customer list, could be a trade secret, and you and your new employer could be stopped by a court from competing with your current employer by using such information.
I would recommend that you consult with an attorney to determine what rights you may have to ignore the agreement you signed.
--Michael A. Hood
Employment law attorney
Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker