Does “At-Will” really mean…?

June 30, 2008

We are constantly receiving separation information that a former employee was let go because “…we are an at-will employer.” Under the California Labor Code the employment relationship is terminable at will by either the company or the employee with or without cause or advanced notice.

QUESTION: Can an employer let an employee go because of the “At-Will” provision? Let me hear from you!



Are You Making A Lead Person Pay For A Helper’s Wages??

June 23, 2008

Over the years this issue continues to raise its ugly head. Some dealerships will have a lead body shop person or tech agree to have a portion of his wages taken out and paid to a helper. We all know that these employees love it because they can get more done and as a result make more money. I honestly believe that this practice is going to create havoc one day. It’s simply a bad idea. Having one employee pay for the wages of another employee is opening the door for some anal retentive department rep or attorney to pursue this issue in a class action lawsuit.

I suggest, and some have taken me up on this, that you restructure the payment arrangement so that each individual in question gets a certain percentage of the commission. The lead, as an example, may get 75% and the helper gets the 25% balance. Just remember as long as the helper never gets less than minimum wage and is paid for any overtime (if appropriate), you should be fine.

If we need to discuss this further, let me know.

Cell Phone Reminder-The Fines Are Higher Than You Think!!

June 23, 2008

As you are well aware, effective July 1, 2008, the new cell phone laws go into effect. There needs to be some last minute clarifications. There are TWO laws, not one. The first prohibits all drivers from using a handheld wireless telephone while operating a motor vehicle (Vehicle Code 23123). Motorists 18 and over may use a hands-free device.  The second law prohibits drivers UNDER 18 from using a wireless telephone OR a hands-free  device while operating a motor vehicle (VC section 23124). The law does permit a driver to use a wireless telephone to make emergency calls to a law enforcement agency, a medical provider, the fire depaartment or other emergency services agency.

The fines, according to the CHP memo that I received through the Sheriff’s Department, states that the base fine for the first offense offense is $20.00 and $50.00 for subsequent convictions. In addition, according to the Uniform Bail and Penalty Schedule, with the addition of penalty assessments, a first offense is $76.00 and a second offense is $190.00.

The employer needs to have a clear policy in place and if an employee gets caught driving in violation of your policy you can give them a disciplinary warning. Any fines incurred by the employee, in my opinion, is paid for by the employee just like any other moving violation. Also, just as a heads up, the violation is reportable to DMV, however, DMV is not assigning a point value at this time.

Commercial drivers can use a “push-to-talk” feature until 2011.

Becareful With Responding To Emails

June 16, 2008

I have a client who recently responded to a resume and called the applicant to conduct a telephone interview. Everything about this applicant was positive, and the telephone interview went well. When the financial part came up, the monies being offered were less than what the applicant desired. In an attempt to determine the financial needs of the applicant, he was asked, by the manager, whether or not he was married. The applicant became very irrate and a very quick apology did not soothe the situation. After the manager hung up the phone, he made notes on the email originally received with the resume. He indicated such notes as, “He has a strong legal background of knowledge,” Scarey,” “Do not hire,” and a few such notable remarks.

The manager, who normally backs his emails up to another site, accidently emailed the notes that he had just made, back to the applicant. Do you see the problem?? Potentially this is/can be an issue.

As I have stated many times in the past, small talk can get you into trouble. Be aware of the questions that cannot be asked at the interview stage. Furthermore, interview notes are discoverable, if they exist at the time a lawsuit is filed.

Once again, “Let’s becareful out there!”



…and the answer is…

June 12, 2008

Well, congrats to Mary at Kemp Ford! Georgia and Florida is correct! These means that our clients who have locations in those two states need to have policies in effect that requires these “gun toting” individuals to adequately secure their weapons. Texas and a few other states permit citizens to carry concealed weapon but I do not believe they are protected when bringing them to work against an employer’s policy.

Workplace Weapons-Now A Reality!!!

June 10, 2008

Well, the wold is coming to an end!!! Two states have laws going into effect on July 1, 2008, that employees can now bring guns to work!! Am I serious? I kid you not! According to the laws of both of these states, employees have the right to store guns in their vehicles while parked on company premises. These laws will severely  limit an employer’s right to enforce no-weapons policies within their property limits. Can you imagine this! Do you think this may encourage violence in the workplace!! Oh, by the way, I intentionally did not tell you which two states!! Any guesses?

Reynolds & Reynolds Auto Lunch Deduct

June 10, 2008

PULEEZZZZ disable this feature!! I have preached this issue sooo many times and now a dealership is in truoble, because they continued to use this “feature” which is not advantageous to your interest!!! If you have an automatic lunch deduction in place you are not going to remember every single time that  the employee in fact took lunch. I have tried to talk to the Reynolds & Reynolds reps that I have seen at ADOMA over the years but they were sales reps and not the decision makers for such matters.

Owners and Managers Cannot Be Held Personally Liable For Wage Violations

June 1, 2008

In a recent California case (Bradstreet v. Wong) the appellate court held that owners and managers cannot be held personally liable for wage violations. In the case the owners encouraged the employees to continue working without pay because the company was having financial problems. The company subsequently went bankrupt and the  Labor Commissioner went after the owners to pay the back wages and subsequent penalties. The appellate court basically stated the Commissioner couldn’t do it. The owners and managers were protected under the corporate veil.

Now although this is good news it is critical to understand that owners and managers must not use this information to violate the Labor Code. The corporation can still be held liable and an owner can still hold managers and supervisors accountable if they engage in a behavior contrary to company policies.

I thought it was important to convey this news because we have told managers that they can be held personally liable. These days are gone, at least for now. It is still important to remember that this case does not apply to sexual harassment and discrimination claims. It is always safer to comply with state and federal guidelines.