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Work & Careers | Q&A | SHOP TALK

How Much Background Must Applicant Supply?

June 22, 1997

Q. I have been interviewing with a Fortune 500 company for the past few weeks and it is getting serious. Now I have been asked to write a biography of myself. I'm not sure I want to divulge the details of my life.

Is their request legal?

--L.T., Costa Mesa

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A. There is nothing illegal generally about a prospective employer asking you to write a biography of yourself in order to make a decision about whether you are the best candidate for a position.

However, you do have a right of privacy under California law, and would not have to disclose intimate details of your personal life, nor would you be required to divulge any information that the employer could not legitimately use in making an employment decision, such as your religious beliefs, your marital status, your attitude toward children, your race, your national origin or whether you have ever been arrested.

Your biography could be limited to your educational achievements, your job history and other pertinent details that would enable your employer to make a legitimate hiring decision.

--Michael A. Hood

Employment law attorney

Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker

An Uncomfortable Situation

Q. I am a manager for a small distribution company. Within the last several months, I have found that an assistant has made many material errors causing considerable work for me. Because the assistant does not report to me but to the owner of the company, I voiced my concerns to the owner. Nothing was done and now the assistant, who has a close personal relationship with the owner, is not talking to me.

In my frustration, I approached a another manager for advice on what I should do. But he told the assistant I was "gossiping" about her and also told the owner. I was reprimanded.

The tension in our department is palpable. No one is talking to me. I cannot believe that my asking my colleague for advice has turned into such an unbearable situation. I am losing sleep over it.

Can a person's career recover from such an embarrassment or should I just quit?

--F.T., Commerce

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A. This sounds like a communication breakdown. You tried to comment on another employee's performance, and it was perceived that you were attempting to bad-mouth the other individual.

You need to request a meeting with all of the involved parties to try to clear the air. You should be prepared in this meeting to make some concessions. For instance, your discussing the incident with another manager was likely inappropriate, particularly after you had already brought the matter to the attention of the owner.

If you and the other parties are committed to getting over this, a frank discussion should help resolve the conflicts. Many conflicts that occur at work, such as this one, get blown out of proportion because of lack of clear communication and resulting misunderstandings. Learning to solve such conflicts is not easy, but developing skills in dealing with such incidents will make you a better manager.

It would be a big mistake to quit your job over an incident like this, especially before you have made a serious attempt to solve the problem.

--Ron Riggio, director

Kravis Leadership Institute

Claremont McKenna College

Defining the Work Period

Q. I have no set schedule for the job I do. Let's say I start my day at 1 p.m. and work until 7 p.m. After a break of two hours, I go back to work for another 11 hours. This is all during one 24-hour period. My company said that a new day starts at midnight, so my hours would stop at midnight and then start over.

I have heard that this is not true and that my day should end 24 hours from the time that I start. Exactly how does this scenario work in California and what law or code can I refer my company to if they are in the wrong? There are others at my company in the same situation.

--L.E., Newport Beach

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A. Your question really concerns overtime compensation. Employers must pay overtime compensation of time and a half after eight hours of work in a day or 40 hours in a week, if the employee is not a professional, manager or administrator who is exempt from overtime.

Regardless of the split shifts and your erratic schedule, you would be entitled to overtime compensation if you worked more than 40 hours in a week and are not in an exempt position. If your wages are close to the minimum wage, you could also be entitled to a "split-shift" differential of up to an additional hour's pay at the minimum wage.

Even if you did not work more than 40 hours a week, you also would be entitled to overtime if you work more than eight hours in a day. The problem with your split schedule concerns the definition of a "day."

For the purposes of computing overtime, a day usually ends at midnight. However, an employer is entitled to establish its own 24-hour period as long as it is done consistently. For example, certain bars might decide that the day ends at 2 a.m.

Theoretically, an employer also could require an employee to work the last eight hours of one day and the first eight hours of the next day without paying overtime.

In your situation, it appears that you would be owed one hour's overtime for the first day since you worked nine hours before midnight, and you might be entitled to another hour's pay for split-shift differential. You would not be eligible for overtime working from midnight to 8 a.m. the second day since you worked only eight hours. But if you return to work later that second day, you would be owed additional overtime compensation.

--Don D. Sessions

Employee rights attorney

Mission Viejo

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