Can my employer do that . . .? Archives

Is it RIGHT to do THAT? Ethics Clarified by Six Questions

Published on September 20th, 2016 by Alan L. Sklover

“If you don’t want anyone to know what you are doing, just don’t do it.”

– Yiddish Proverb

ACTUAL CASE HISTORY: Amy, a friend of many years, called my office one day, asking if she might speak with me confidentially. And she didn’t want to speak on the telephone. So we agreed to meet in a coffee shop the next day.

What she shared with me was quite unusual, and disturbing: she was a Senior Project Manager with a large real estate and construction firm. For almost a year she had been working on the construction of one of New York City’s most famous “new landmarks” and had encountered a problem. She was asked to do something that made her nervous. She didn’t know what to do.

Recent tests on the building’s concrete foundation showed mixed results. Since the tragedy of 9/11, foundation strength standards had been raised, and only about 2/3 of the building’s tests showed sufficient strength. Although not really a part of her job, she was brought in to the central office and was asked to “cherry pick” the positive reports, and discard the reports showing deficiencies, before submission to the City’s Department of Buildings. To say the least, she was frightened.

At least those were the facts as Amy knew them. Since she was not an engineer, and was not specifically trained in reading the reports, she was relying on the discussions among the engineers on site. She understood that there was a problem from conversations with engineers she believed to be knowledgeable in these matters. And she was suspicious from the very moment she was asked to present these reports to City officials and insurance representatives, as her usual duties had nothing to do with foundation tests. Was she, she wondered, being set up as a scapegoat?

Was there a “right” or “ethical” thing to do? Whatever was the ethical thing to do, could it hurt her job and career? These were very weighty concerns.

LESSON TO LEARN: Issues like the ones Amy faced are not that unusual. These days, it seems nearly every company is under pressure from investors and others to (a) cut corners, (b) bend the rules, and (c) twist the truth, usually in the name of cost savings or deadline pressures. It seems more often than in previous times that commercial considerations are coming into direct conflict with ethical concerns.

The issue might be one of public safety, or it might be a matter of tax evasion. Or pressures to cheat customers. One day it might be one issue; the next day it might be a different one. Whatever the issue, the dilemmas abound. It’s often hard to know what to do, when competing pressures are upon you. And those pressures can take their toll.

For those in this circumstance, we offer a rather simplified analytical tool that we sometimes call “The Six Questions to Ethical Clarity.” It is a set of basic, simple questions to ask yourself to figure out what is right to do when you’re simply not sure.

One thing about what is “right” to do: it can depend on one’s experience, one’s perspective and one’s judgment. That is, we all sometimes have “blind spots” in different situations. For that reason the question “Is it right to do?” often suggests getting the views of others with experience, perspective and judgment you trust. Just think about it: even the greatest ethicists of all time can and do disagree at times about “Is it RIGHT to do THAT?

WHAT YOU CAN DO: We do not claim any exclusive right to these six questions, because the ideas underlying them are commonly found in published articles, like this one, about ethical dilemmas in different situations. However, we present them to you in the context of issues that arise during employment, along with certain insights gleaned from the our client experiences over three decades.
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“Marijuana Legalization: Does it bring new issues into the Workplace?”

Published on January 7th, 2014 by Alan L Sklover

Question: I read today that “recreational” use of marijuana became legal in Colorado on January 1st. I work in Colorado in the education industry, so my question is how will this law affect drug tests required by such community workers where sobriety is of utmost importance in keeping people safe?

Could it be that they are lowering the testing parameters to check if someone is sober at the time of his test? With urine tests, alcohol does not remain in the system beyond 24 hours or so. But with marijuana, as I understand it, THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) stays much longer.

Could you please clarify.

A Loyal Subscriber
Fountain Valley, Colorado 

Answer: Dear Loyal Subscriber: Your question highlights an interesting issue that is sure to arise in the workplace. Here’s my best answer – and prediction:    

1. Whenever our society grants a degree of greater freedom, our society must at the same time consider the potential consequences of that greater freedom. Most of us believe that freedom is a good, precious and valuable part of life. Freedom to do something should never – unless necessary – be restricted. Then again, most of us believe that it is also a good thing to have security – that is, “freedom” from fear, harm, abuse and injury. Whenever society liberalizes any rule, restriction or regulation of behavior, that is, permits a wider freedom, it must at the same time conserve what is also important to us all: our safety and security.

2. The legalization of recreational marijuana use is a kind of greater freedom. There are many good reasons why people should be entitled to use marijuana “recreationally,” that is for the fun of it. At the same time, there seems to be more and more evidence that marijuana is also extremely useful and effective in the treatment of certain illnesses. Accounts I have read about and seen on television of the tremendous comfort and assistance marijuana can give to so many people who are ill have been just amazing. And, too, legalizing recreational use of marijuana also presents the opportunity for new jobs in a new industry, new sources of taxes for local and state governments, and the diversion of monies away from organized criminal groups. For all these reasons, and others, too, legalization of recreational marijuana consumption seems a wise step.

3. However, marijuana stays in the blood for several days, and no one wants their airline pilot, their kid’s bus driver, their mother’s eye surgeon, their home electrician or the factory worker who puts together their father’s heart pacemaker to be even “a little high” on the job. Even those who are ardent advocates of the legal consumption of marijuana are not in favor of the person who flies their airplane, or performs their mother’s eye surgery, or the person who drives their kids’ school bus on the interstate highway, to be doing those things a mere eight hours after “toking up on some truly killer weed.”

Airline pilots may be both pot-smokers and employees. Bus drivers may be both pot-smokers and employees. Likewise for eye surgeons and those who put together heart pacemakers: they are also employees, and may also enjoy their daily “bong hits.”

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4. As a general rule, employers are also “free” to put in place rules and policies to protect their businesses from harm, their employees from harm, and their customers from harm; in fact, they are “not free” to fail to do so, but can be  held accountable for the mistakes of employees who are even “a little bit high.” Let’s imagine, for a moment, a restaurant chef had a few friends over on Sunday evening to taste some unbelievable marijuana brownies she baked that afternoon. Let’s imagine that the next day, she was in her restaurant’s kitchen, and forgot for a few minutes to turn down the heat under a pot of boiling oil she was preparing for the fried clams on the menu. The result: two cooks and one waiter were terribly scalded – and permanently scarred – with boiling oil.

In most states, employees can do whatever they wish on their days off, but employers are free to fire them if those “days-off activities” affect the workplace. Such “days-off activities” that can get an employee fired include (a) dating a subordinate from work, (b) getting arrested and convicted of a crime, (c) even smoking cigarettes, because smokers are known to be absent more and incur greater healthcare costs. Thus, we are already permitting employee “freedoms” to be limited by employers if those “freedoms” might reasonably be expected to affect the workplace.

Sometimes, things seem complicated and confusing. For those who need individual attention and assistance, Mr. Sklover is available for telephone consultations on workplace problems and opportunities lasting 30 minutes, 60 minutes, or 2 hours. If you would like to set up a consultation, just [click here.]

5. Every employee is entitled – by law – to a safe workplace, and to be “free” from foreseeable on-the-job injury; that applies to customers, and the general public, too. Every employee is entitled to be “free” from such terrible pain and lifelong scarring as the restaurant workers suffered in the above example. In fact, the law requires it: every employer must take “reasonable precautions” to make sure they are all safe from “foreseeable harm.” There is simply no question about it: those are the types of injuries and issues that will be seen, and whoever is “negligent” in any way will be held accountable. The same thing holds true for the employers’ customers: they, too, are entitled to be “free” from potential injury at the restaurant, on the airline, and in the hospital.  

Imagine if your daughter was brought to an emergency room, and given 30 milligrams of a drug instead of the 3.0 milligrams prescribed? Would you be upset if the nurse who made the mistake had never been tested for marijuana use?

Everyone who drives a car is also entitled to be “free” from the “ buzzed highway truck driver,” as is everyone who uses a tea kettle with a poorly welded handle; thus, all employers will be likely to be deemed “free” to require reasonable tests to identify marijuana in the bloodstream, and perhaps not “free” to fail to do so. 

6. So what do we, as a society, do? Either (a) permit airline pilots, truck drivers, chemistry teachers, cops and all others to be “a little high,” or (b) permit employers to test more employees on a frequent basis, to prevent harm before it happens. This week in New York City, a federal judge approved a City requirement that every police officer who fires a gun on duty to be immediately given a breathalyzer test to determine if he or she was drinking on the job. I think you will see this sort of thing, and regarding marijuana in the blood, random blood and urine testing, as well.

While, sadly, it may take some needless tragedies before the public accepts such stricter employer practices, I think that they are all inevitable – the tragedies, the lawsuits, the public outcry, and the legal “freedom” of employers to protect their employees, their customers and the public by preemptive, frequent and random blood or urine testing, or other means of identifying marijuana in the blood.  

Been accused of misconduct at work? You may be wise to present your best defenses in writing to your employer BEFORE your employer reaches its own conclusions. We offer 10 different Model Letters Responding to Various Allegations of Misconduct at Work. Shows you “What to Say, and How to Say It.”™ To obtain your copy, just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly!

7. Will employees found with marijuana in their blood or urine be given second chances, severance if terminated, the right to unemployment benefits if fired for being “a little high” on the job, or even confidentiality about their reason for termination? Only time will tell. While I foresee the public, our legislatures, insurance companies and juries permitting – and perhaps requiring –  employers to test their employees for marijuana in their blood or urine, and thus being “a little high” on the job, I am not too confident that “secondary effects” of marijuana use  on those who are “caught” engaging in this activity – even on days off.  

Some people are reportedly moving to Colorado because of the new marijuana law passed there, while others are reportedly moving out of Colorado to other states as a result. Everyone is “free” to do either.

Might airlines, hospitals and school bus companies begin to advertise “Use our services because we urine-test our employees daily?” They would be “free” to do so.

Would you be more likely to fly an airline that advertised that? Or a hospital? Or a school bus company? You would be free to do so. Only time will tell if they will advertise that, or you will be swayed by that advertising, or if I will, too.

Loyal subscriber, I hope this is helpful to you. Thanks for writing in, and thanks, too, for presenting such an interesting question. If you are an investor, here’s a stock tip for you: companies that make employee-urine testing kits might find a place in your portfolio, especially if they do business in Colorado.

Please consider telling your friends, family and colleagues about our blog – we’d REALLY appreciate that!! Oh, yes, and tell them, too, that subscribing to our blog is free, fun and helpful.

My Best,
Al Sklover

Repairing the World,
One Empowered – and Productive – Employee at a Time™

© 2014, Alan L. Sklover All Rights Reserved. Commercial Use Prohibited.

“Is there a limit to how many hours I can be required to work?”

Published on May 29th, 2013 by Alan L Sklover

Question: Hi, Alan. I so value your newsletter, and learn a lot from it. Thank you for your words of working wisdom. I haven’t seen the following issue covered yet. 

I work from 9:00 am to 8:00 pm as a caregiver employed by a home health agency in California. I have one weekday off a week, and alternate weekends. My hours are  60 a week. 

My employer has just scheduled a mandatory two-hour meeting, which falls on my one weekday off. Working a 60-hour workweek as I do, I am understandably protective of what little time I have off. 

Can my employer insist I go to this meeting? Is there a limit to how much I can be required to work? With appreciation . . . 

P.S.: I’ve never been paid overtime, even though at times I have worked 24 hours straight.

N.R.
Sacramento, California

Answer: Dear N.R., I think you are correct: I have not addressed this issue before. Believe it or not, for most employees there is no limit on how much – or when – an employer can require they work in order to keep their jobs. However, in California there is a “kind of limit,” that might, in some weeks, apply to you. Here’s what I’ve found:          

1. To my best knowledge, there are just three groups of people who have a legal maximum number of hours they can be required to work: (a) children, (b) unionized workers, and (c) “safety-related” employees, such as airplane pilots, doctors in training, and miners. The U.S. federal law that governs most employment matters, the Fair Labor Standards Act (commonly known as “FLSA”) has no limit on the number of hours an employee can be required to work. California state law, and New York state law, have none either. I know of no other state law that sets a limit. 

(a) Children: That said, every state I know of has a legal maximum number of hours a week that a child can be required to work – in fact, even allowed to work if they want to. For example, under California state law, children aged 12 and 13 cannot be employed on any school day, either before or after school. 14- and 15-year olds can work three hours per school day, for a maximum of 18 hours a week. 16- and 17-year olds can work four hours on a school day and a maximum of 48 hours a week. 

(b) “Safety-related” Occupations: Federal laws also strictly regulate how many hours a day or a week certain occupations can work for safety reasons, including airline pilots and physicians – especially interns and residents in physician training. In other areas of public safety, maximum hours are also regulated by law. For safety reasons, strict regulations exist on the maximum number of hours miners can work in underground mines. 

(c) Collectively Bargained Agreements: Finally, most collective bargaining agreements set limits on the number of hours a unionized employee can be required to work during a work week. 

But for the vast majority of employees, there simply is no limit on the number of hours an employee can be required to work. 

2. California does, though, have a rather unusual law: an employee cannot be “discriminated against, demoted or fired” for refusing to work more than 72 hours in a work week. As you may be aware, I am not licensed to practice law in California. That said, I did a little legal research to answer your inquiry, and found this California law that, to my mind, is quite unusual: 

California Wage Order 4, Section 2(D)(1) provides that employers may not demote, fire or discriminate against employees who refuse to work more than 72 hours in a workweek, unless there is an emergency. What is an “emergency?” Another California law, Labor Code Sections 850 to 854, defines “emergency” as  “any unpredictable or unavoidable event that happens at an unscheduled time and requires immediate action.” 

Thus, while in California there is no limit on the number of hours you can be required to work, it is illegal to fire, demote or discriminate against you if you refuse to work more than 72 hours in a workweek. Since you regularly work “only” 60 hours a week, this may not apply to you. That said, you did mention that at times you have worked 24 hours straight, so in some weeks this law may very well apply to you.    

Note, too, that employees are permitted to “voluntarily” work more than 72 hours in a workweek if they “choose” to do so. Is that “choosing” always really “voluntary?” It is surely hard to say “No” to a “bossy” boss. 

3. In practical reality, it is the Federal overtime law that really serves to limit employees’ workweeks to 40 or so hours. N.R., I bet you did not know it, but the Federal FLSA law, enacted in the 1930’s, was enacted to encourage employers to “spread the jobs around,” and give jobs to more unemployed people instead of giving those who had a job 50, 60 or more hours of work each week. And, in this way, the FLSA remains today the reason most employers do not require employees to work so many hours. 

To learn more about overtime and your rights to collect overtime pay, feel free to review a newsletter I wrote a few years ago entitled “Overtime Pay: 80% of American Employees are Entitled. Are You?” You can do so by simply [clicking here.]  

4. From what you have written, you are quite probably entitled to payment for overtime for all of those hours worked in excess of 40 in a week. I don’t know all of the facts and circumstances of your position, but it seems to me not to be of an executive nature, an administrative nature, or highly paid, which are the three most common characteristics of an “exempt” position. From how you describe your work and how many hours you generally work, it seems to me quite probable that you are entitled to a large payment of overdue overtime.  

Incidentally, if your employer denies you overtime pay “willfully,” and most instances are easily provable to be “willful,” you may be entitled to double the amount you were denied, plus reimbursement of all legal fees.  

5. The FLSA law makes it illegal to retaliate against those who raise their legal rights to overtime. If you do decide to bring the issue of non-payment of overtime pay due you directly to your current employer, you should bear in mind that your doing so may not make your employer especially “pleased.” In fact, your employer may resent your doing so, and may want to “make life difficult” for you in retaliation.

Though, under the FLSA you are legally protected from retaliation in this situation, we all know that employers can be subtle in how and when they “get even.” For this reason, an anonymous letter to your employer, raising the issue of overtime pay about a group of employees of which you are a member, may be wisest. While some people might view anonymous letters as “sneaky,” I wholeheartedly consider them often totally justified, and a matter of carefully protecting yourself and your family when you stand up for your legal rights.

To assist those who are fearful of directly requesting the legal protections available to them, on our blogsite’s Model Letters section, you can obtain a “Model Anonymous Letter to Your Current Employer Requesting Overtime Pay For All.” To obtain a copy, just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly.

You might also consider filing an anonymous complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor, as it is their job to investigate such complaints and, if they find a violation of FLSA, they will usually try to negotiate a resolution without Court action. For information on how to initiate an anonymous overtime complaint to the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor, go to their website at www.dol.gov.  

The federal FLSA law provides that you have at least two years, and in some instances, three years, to exert you rights to overtime pay. For this reason, you can wait a while to do so, if you wish.  

On our blogsite’s Model Letters section you can obtain a “Model Letter to Your Former Employer Requesting Unpaid Overtime Pay.” To obtain a copy, just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly.

6. Lastly, always bear in mind that no one can, or will, take care of you at work, or protect you and your workplace rights, better than you can or will, yourself. It is the employee, himself or herself, who can “Just Say No” to an employer’s violation of their legal rights, provided he or she is (a) confident in his or her skills and positive work ethic, (b) prepared in all respects to find a new employer who wants or needs those skills and positive work ethic, and (c) has saved up something of a “financial cushion” in case it takes a while to find what my kids call “a better gig.” 

It is our view that this kind of “wise navigating and negotiating” is, in the end, the smartest, most reliable, most effective, and most rewarding way to live your work life, and that is why we encourage it so much. 

N.R., I hope this has been of help to you. Please – from one hard worker to another – make sure you take the time to take care of yourself, and your loved ones, too.    

My Best,
Al Sklover

P.S.: If you would like to speak with me directly about this or other workplace-related subjects, I am available for 30-minute, 60-minute, or 120-minute telephone consultations. (Even 5-minute “Just One Question” calls). Just [click here.] Evenings and weekends can be accommodated.

Repairing the World –
One Empowered and Productive Employee at a Time ™

© 2013 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.

“Why is it acceptable to expect someone to work 60 to 70 hours a week?”

Published on November 20th, 2012 by Alan L Sklover

Question: I find that the company I am working for is using the exempt-from-overtime status of many of its employees to avoid hiring additional employees to handle the abundance of work. Why is it acceptable to expect someone to work 60 to 70 hours a week for 7 years? I feel this is a form of abusive behavior.

If I work on a project, and my estimate to finish a task will be 1000 hours and be completed in 6 months, but the company wants the same work done in a two-month timeframe with the same number of resources, why is it they have all the flexibility to say “Get it done,” and the employees involved are not provided the resources or tools to succeed.

At what point does the overtime work become abusive? Don’t get me wrong – I am not looking for the easy way out, and I have always been a very hard worker, but this environment is beginning to create family and health issues.

Where is the accountability on upper management and the corporation to not abuse the exempt-from-overtime employees? Thanks.

Terry
Wheeling, West Virginia

Answer: Dear Terry: Every now and then a blog visitor asks a question that is so simple, basic and fundamental, it sort of stuns me, and takes me an extra degree of reflection and thought-gathering to answer.  

It reminds me of when my son, Sam, was about 5 years old, he looked at me in puzzlement and earnestly asked me, “Daddy, you always watch the news; why don’t you watch cartoons?” You know something, it took a few minutes to figure out an honest answer. (Like many people my age, I have now actually started to prefer cartoons to the day’s news.) Your question is such a question. Here are my thoughts:   

1. Like most voluntary relations and activities, the employment relation is what you make it, or allow your employer to make of it for you. Whether it is dating, friendship, or being a patron of a restaurant, most associations between people are voluntary. Both “sides” or “partners” can come and go as they wish. Few are involuntary. Employment is voluntary because slavery is outlawed. So, it could be said, your employer is asking for more, more and more hours, with less, less and less resources, because you and other of its employees are allowing it to do so, and not leaving due to the abuse. I know that sounds cold-hearted, but there is at least some truth in it.

2. Many would say, in response, that employment is not voluntary at all, because we all need to feed, house and clothe our families and ourselves. There is real truth to this view, as well unless, that is, your Grandfather invented the cell phone, or something like that, in which case you may not need to work and earn a living. Economic necessity is the daily truth for nearly all of us; work is not “voluntary.”

For this reason, people often feel coerced, without any say or way of standing up for themselves, and surely fearful of losing their jobs if they dare stand up in any fashion. And it is worse in difficult economic times, like those we experience today.

3. Our society and government recognize the “involuntary nature” of employment, and so have set up certain “limits” on how much, and to what degree, an employer can “exploit” or “take advantage of” its employees. As just a few examples, our society has (a) outlawed slavery as cruel and inhumane, (b) outlawed child labor, as not conducive to the education and growth of our children in their more tender years, (c) established minimum wage laws, so that all employees must be paid at least a certain amount of income, and live a certain minimal economic level, and (d) enacted occupational safety laws, so that fewer people get injured on the job. Many other examples exist. So, you see, there are some “limits” on some types of the “abuse” you speak of.

For people like yourself, who are “exempt” from the overtime provisions of state and federal law, these “limits” are more limited, and less effective, when it comes to hours you must work.  

4. Over and above the minimum legal standards set by our government, it is up to employees – either united into unions, or on their own – to “negotiate” a better level of treatment. Historically, labor unions were the primary force advocating for improved conditions and terms of working, on a worldwide basis. The struggles of the labor movement, especially in its early years, raised awareness of what you call the “abusive” nature of the way many employers treated their employees, and brought about the fairer, higher standards we have come to enjoy, including such things as paid sick time and mandatory overtime. Make no mistake about it: the struggles to make the workplace a fairer, more decent and less abusive place required true battles – with many suffering arrest, injury and even death. Fighting for fairness is not easy.

With the number of employees represented by labor unions on the decline, worldwide, it has come to pass that people need to stand up for themselves to make their workplaces fairer, at least for them.

5. Through our blogsite, we are trying to help people do – for themselves – just what you have identified “someone” has to do: make the workplace less abusive and fairer, not by picketing or striking, but by “navigating and negotiating” with employers. I firmly believe no one can help people better than they can help themselves, and in the simple notion that “If you make yourself valuable enough, and then ask for what you are worth, the sky is the limit on how much you can improve the way your employer treats you.” It is a very simple notion, yet for many a difficult concept to comprehend, and incorporate into your daily life. But for those who do “get it,” there is a certain freedom, a kind of exhilaration, and a true “awakening” that is quite exciting.

Teaching people that they can, are allowed, and free to do such “navigation and negotiation” is the first task. Teaching them how to do that is the second task before us. 

6. Dignity is never “given,” but instead must be “taken.” So many people wait for years and years to be treated fairly, and sooner or later just get used to the abuse they suffer. That is a dangerous kind of demoralization. Don’t wait years and years for your employer to be fair to you; instead, start today the process of making it in your employer’s self-interest to be good to you in all the ways you deserve. Mutual self-interest is the “guiding” light of navigation and negotiation between employers and employees. 

But you must, sooner or later, start the process by making yourself valuable and known for your value, and then to be someone who says, literally and figuratively, “I want to be treated in a better way, in terms of hours, compensation, title, benefits, opportunity for advancement, etc.” 

Dignity, freedom and power are, in this way, “taken,” and not “given.” That message, and the ways to achieve what you seek, comprise the essence of what this blogsite is trying to do, worldwide, forever, the “hard” way, but the way that truly works. 

Terry, I hope this makes sense to you. These thoughts are the product of lessons of history, that must be learned again and again by each person and in each generation.   

My best to you,
Al Sklover

P.S.: New! We now offer by digital download to your tablet Mr. Sklover’s classic, “Fired, Downsized, or Laid Off,” the unofficial “bible” of how to negotiate severance. If you would like to obtain a digital copy for your tablet, just [click here].

P.P.S.: If you would like to speak with me directly about this or other workplace-related subjects, I am available for 30-minute, 60-minute, or 120-minute telephone consultations. (Even 5-minute “Just One Question” calls). Just [click here.] Evenings and weekends can be accommodated.

Repairing the World –
One Empowered and Productive Employee at a Time ™

© 2012 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.

“Can my employer refuse to let me resign?”

Published on March 17th, 2012 by Alan L Sklover

Question: I’ve been working in a company for almost five years. Between the first and second years, I was appointed the Treasurer for the company. I admit I do have my back logs, but I also must say my employer constantly gives me more things to do, so of course I do not get everything done.

At one time, I decided this is not the line of work for me, and I wanted to resign. However, my boss said that first we must submit all financial documents to an auditor to see if I got money from the company, or in order for me to be cleared in all money obligations before giving me certification.

The worst thing is that until now, my salary is on hold and all of my benefits, too. I want to tell my employer again that I want to be “out” now. But I know he will insist again that we have to wait again until the auditor is done with our papers. But I want to resign now because I am not happy anymore in their policies. 

Trevor
Norway

Answer: Dear Trevor: Though I am not licensed as an attorney in Norway, I have done a bit of research on Norwegian law on the internet in preparation for this answer. These are my thoughts:

1. No one can force you to remain an employee; that would constitute a kind of slavery, which is clearly prohibited in Norway, as it is in most countries. An employer cannot refuse your resignation, or make you remain on the job. Forced labor is not permitted in the vast majority of countries in the world, and Norway is among them. In my own internet search, I have found nothing in Norwegian law that says you must continue to serve an employer when you do not want to do so anymore. While it may be wise to consult an attorney in your city in Norway, I rather doubt he or she will tell you anything different.

2. Even if you agreed in a Contract to remain in your job – which you have not indicated is the case– you are always free to leave your employment, but if you do so in violation of an agreement, you might have to face certain consequences. Some employees have committed themselves to work for their employers for a certain period of time, either in an employment agreement or in a union contract. Other employees have agreed to give a certain minimum notice to their employers, commonly two, three or four weeks. These employees often think that, no matter what or how badly they are treated, they must remain in their jobs until the time they agreed to stay. That is incorrect. The clearer view is that, an employee can always leave a job before the agreed time has elapsed, but in that case, he or she may – possibly – have to bear the consequences of doing so.

Those “consequences” might entail (a) an agreed penalty, (b) loss of unvested stock or stock options (we call that a “forfeiture” provision), or (c) even a lawsuit claiming damages. You have not indicated that any of these exist, or are likely, in your situation, and in fact they are exceedingly rare, but these and other possible “consequences” are things you should be aware of and consider before resigning from any job, and  then leaving, prior to an agreed termination date.

3. Want a guide? Just do what is (a) right, and (b) right for you; never be intimidated or coerced. From what you have written, and how you have written it, you sound like a very dedicated and sincere employee, and I admire you and salute you for that. The world sure needs more of those, just as it needs more responsible and fair employers! However, I do think your actions should be “guided” by two “stars”: (a) what you believe is “right,” and (b) what is “right” for you and your family.

At work, “navigating” yourself to do the best thing can be confusing. The wisest path forward is always to “navigate” primarily according to these two “guiding stars,” while bearing in mind the simultaneous need to be respectful of the rights, needs and sensibilities of others. This will result in the best way to proceed whenever your path forward is full of doubt. While employers will sometimes act in an overbearing way to try to get you to ignore what is right and what is right for you and your family, you should never be, or act as if you are, intimidated or coerced. Should “fear” knock on your door, send “faith” to answer it.

4. And when you resign, do it “right” and carefully: (a) in writing, (b) with respect, and (c) with professionalism. As in everything you do, how you do it is a reflection of who you are. Resigning is more complicated than most people think it is. In fact, one of the most popular articles on our blogsite is “Resigning from Your Job: The 21 Necessary Precautions.” [To read it, just click on its title.] Take care to resign carefully, and chances are you will accomplish the “transition out” from your employment in the best shape and to your maximum advantage.

Trevor, the Model Letter Section of our blogsite offers three levels of assistance to resigning employees:

Our 100-Point Checklist for Resigning – if interested in obtaining a copy, [click here].

Two Sample Resignation Letters – if interested in obtaining copies, just [click here].

Our “Ultimate Package for Resigning” – if interested in all our Model Materials – [click here].

For great info and insight, consider viewing our 12-minute Sklover-On-Demand Video entitled “Resigning from Your Job – What to Do, How to Do It.” To do so, just [click here].

Thanks for writing in, all the way from Norway. While I love to help employees in all aspects of their work life, I must admit that I especially enjoy getting inquiries from those “far away” from my own home, yet “close enough” to be of service to you.

Best,
Al Sklover

P.S.: If you would like to speak with me directly about this or other workplace-related subjects, I am available for 30-minute, 60-minute, or 120-minute telephone consultations. (Even 5-minute “Just One Question” calls). Just [click here.] Evenings and weekends can be accommodated.

Repairing the World –
One Empowered and Productive Employee at a Time ™

© 2012 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.


Alan L. Sklover

Alan L. Sklover

Employment Attorney
and Career Strategist
for over 35 years

Job Security and Career Success now depend on knowing how to navigate and negotiate to gain the most for your skills, time and efforts. Learn the trade secrets and 'uncommon common sense' of Attorney Alan L. Sklover, the leading authority on "Negotiating for Yourself at Work™".

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