No Privacy When It Comes to Voicemail

Q: Is it illegal or unethical for a customer to transfer a voicemail from you to another person in his office and that person plays it to your boss?

--J.G., Los Angeles

A: No. By its very nature, voicemail is a recording that can be played back at a later date. When you send a voicemail, you need to recognize that your words may come back to haunt you.

It is very different from phone and in-person conversations for which you may have an expectation of privacy--an expectation that is supported by state and federal laws.


--Jo Tucker

Employment law


Morrison & Foerster


Employers Not Required to Give Layoff Severance

Q: When a company lays off more than 100 people, is it bound by law to give two months’ severance?

--A.L., Fullerton

A: No, there is no requirement that any employer give severance pay in the event of a layoff.

However, under the federal Worker Adjustment Retraining Notice Act, an employer that has more than 100 employees at a particular location may have an obligation to provide 60 days’ advance notice of a mass layoff or a full or partial plant closure.

If the employer fails to provide notice, the employer may owe 60 days’ pay plus benefits to the affected employees.

--Michael A. Hood

Employment law attorney


Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker

Not All Salaried Workers Exempt From Earning OT

Q: I have been a salaried employee for three years in an office of about eight people. My hours are 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

My employer has a habit of arriving at the office shortly before 6 p.m. and announcing, “No one leaves because we must all work tonight.”

The work almost always can wait until the following workday.

I was once kept until 3 a.m., receiving no overtime. I am a single mother, and in one instance my 11-year-old child was home unattended with a fever. When I mentioned my dilemma, my employer was not sympathetic, implying that if I refused to be “flexible,” I would lose my job.

Are my employer’s demands legal? Should I be entitled to compensation for all the overtime?

--S.J., Westlake Village


A: Employees who are exempt from overtime rules can be forced to work extraordinary hours without overtime compensation.

However, being salaried does not necessarily mean you are exempt from these rules. There are other factors, such as managing two or more people more than half of your time, administering the operations of your employer with discretion and independent judgment, or performing professional or artistic services.

And if you are nonexempt, it is illegal for your employer to require you to work more than eight hours a day, or 40 hours in a week, without appropriate overtime.

Although there are federal and state laws that allow employees time to care for a sick child, those apply to employers with more than 50 employees.

If your employer has a policy allowing sick leave, however, there is another state law that allows you to use part of your sick leave to care for your child.

It also is possible that your employer could lose its right to call you exempt and avoid overtime compensation if it unnecessarily requires you to work arbitrary and long hours. Although employers have a certain amount of leeway in setting hours for exempt workers, the employer might have to pick up a substantial tab for overtime compensation if the hours are unnecessarily excessive. The employer also could be liable if it terminates employees who rightfully refuse to work those hours.

--Don D. Sessions

Employee rights attorney

Mission Viejo


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 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