How do you come out ahead if your employer demands you sign a non-compete contract months or years into the job? “If you decide not to sign it, don’t quit. Let them fire you. Some employers will threaten but won’t actually fire top performers,” Ballman says.
One of the most troublesome trends expected to heat up in 2013 is conflict over overtime. Employees should know that because you are salaried doesn’t mean you’re automatically exempt from (not entitled to) paid overtime. “Some employees are exempt, but not nearly as many as most employers and employees assume. It’s a complicated issue, and most employers are getting it wrong,” Ballman says. If they do get it wrong, employers aren’t allowed to retaliate against you for asking for overtime.
On the other hand, Ballman says almost every adult employee thinks they’re entitled to work breaks. Under federal and most state laws, including Florida, they aren’t. Not for lunch. Not for rest. Not for the bathroom. And, federal and most state laws also don’t require you get paid sick days or additional pay for working holidays.
Even more, there also is no law that requires employers to pay you more just because you got promoted. “Don’t be so flattered by a promotion that you forget to ask the big questions before you accept,” Ballman says. Sometimes a better job title means less pay because you’re exempt from overtime. Here’s what you should ask: whether you’re exempt from overtime, whether you still get commissions, if your hours will change, who you will be supervising and whether or not you must sign a contract.
In the new year, the biggest workplace clashes are expected to arise from online behavior. Employees are asking, “Can my employer monitor my Internet usage and read my emails?”
The answer is yes. Assume your employer is monitoring your emails at work and act accordingly. Don’t review anything, forward anything or post anything from your work computer that isn’t work related, Ballman advises. “Clever employers know almost everyone has some inappropriate emails they failed to delete. Those emails just may give your employer the so-called legitimate reason they need to defend against a retaliation claim.”
The same goes for what you post on social media sites. Lots of employees are posting nasty comments about their bosses on Facebook, tweeting how awful management is and wondering why they were fired.
“If you are complaining about working conditions, you’re possibly protected. If you are venting without encouraging co-workers to weigh in, you might not be protected,” Ballman says. Her best advice is don’t complain on social media. “There are just too many ways you can mess yourself up.”
If you’re thinking of catching your jerky boss in action on video and posting it on YouTube or Facebook, forget about it. The tape will probably not be admissible in court and could well land you in jail. “I want nothing to do with recordings unless everyone whose voices appear on them consented to be recorded,” Ballman says.
Instead of recording, Ballman suggests you take good notes that include the time, place, what was said and witnesses. “Keep a running log, but not in your desk or work computer.”
If you are fired for any reason, don’t sign papers shoved in front of you without consulting an attorney. And if your want to sue, try to negotiate first, Ballman says. “In more than 25 years of law practice, I’ve never had one single client say at the end of a lawsuit, win or lose, ‘I’m really glad I did that.’ ”
Workplace columnist Cindy Krischer Goodman is CEO of BalanceGal LLC, a provider of news and advice on how to balance work and life. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit worklifebalancingact.com.