Options Exist on Ways to Turn In Co-Worker With False Time Cards

Q. It has become apparent that an employee in the department is falsifying the hours worked on her time card.

The supervisor allows the behavior to continue, creating an uncomfortable work situation. And if I report this to the manager of the department, I'm concerned that I will be branded as confrontational and a whistle-blower.

Please advise what the proper course of action should be.

--J.W., Los Angeles

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A. You have several options.

You could ignore it and choose not to get involved. If you're being paid a fair amount and doing your job, you might not want to concern yourself with what others are or aren't doing.

That might prevent you from making enemies, both at your level and above.

You could complain anonymously, although if you're at a small company, it might be easier for others to figure out who complained.

You could make a formal complaint to the manager, but ask that your identity be kept confidential.

I would suggest making the complaint and request for confidentiality in writing. If there is any retaliation, you might have a claim, depending on the circumstances.

There's no doubt that you have to be very diplomatic about complaints in the workplace if the job is important to you.

--Don D. Sessions

Employee rights attorney

Mission Viejo

Firm's New Owner Wants to Reduce Worker's Salary

Q. Our company was acquired by a European company, which immediately terminated a number of employees.

My position apparently was to be eliminated as well because the new owner felt I was "paid too much." My boss claimed I was too valuable and managed to save me.

I was informed that my new position is executive assistant to the former president and chief executive and several vice presidents.

I am now the only administrative person left on staff.

Can my new employer reduce my salary because he has restructured my position? I am over 50 years old and a female.

If I am terminated, and a new assistant is hired at a lower salary, do I have grounds for age discrimination?

--P.F., Mission Viejo

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A. Your new employer can legally reduce your salary as a consequence of restructuring your position, but there are a couple of exceptions.

The employer may not lower your salary because of your age, sex, religion, national origin or on the basis of any other protected characteristic.

In addition, if you have an agreement guaranteeing that you will be employed for a specified period of time at a certain salary and to perform certain job duties, you may have a breach of contract claim if the employer changes the deal. Otherwise, your employer has probably done nothing unlawful.

Regarding an age-discrimination claim if you are terminated, a section (12941.1) added last year to the California Government Code prevents wage discrimination against older workers as a group.

Thus, you may wish to discuss your concerns with the company's human resources representative. If you are unsuccessful, you may contact the California Department of Fair Employment & Housing and explain your situation, if you are terminated.

The department will be able to assist you in determining whether you have a legitimate age-discrimination claim.

--Diane J. Crumpacker

Management law attorney

Fried, Bird & Crumpacker

Recourse When Accepted Job Offer Is Rescinded

Q. I was recently recruited by my old senior vice president to work for the company she joined.

I accepted and signed a formal offer letter, but three days before I was due to start she informed me that she would have to rescind the offer.

Apparently, she was unaware that she had signed a "no poaching clause" at my workplace.

Because I had already given my notice, I was unable to keep my job and am now out of work.

Do I have any recourse?

--T.D., Redondo Beach

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A. California law prohibits an employer from intentionally misrepresenting the terms or conditions of employment in the course of recruiting employees to move from one geographical location to another to take a new job.

Since it does not appear that you were required to move residences in order to take the new job, and since your former superior did not appear to have intentionally misrepresented the availability of a job, that law would not likely apply.

You may have a common-law claim for negligent misrepresentation. You would not have to show that an employer made an intentional misrepresentation, just that it made a representation carelessly.

But you should consider whether a lawsuit is worth pursuing because of the time and money likely to be spent on litigation--and the fact that you will probably destroy your relationship with your former superior if you sue her.

--James J. McDonald Jr.

Attorney, Fisher & Phillips

Labor law instructor, UC Irvine

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If you have a question about an on-the-job situation, please mail it to Shop Talk, Los Angeles Times, P.O. Box 2008, Costa Mesa, CA 92626; dictate it to (714) 966-7873, or e-mail it to shoptalk@latimes.com. Include your initials and hometown. The Shop Talk column is designed to answer questions of general interest. It should not be construed as legal advice. Recent Shop Talk columns are available at http://www.latimes.com/shoptalk.

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