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Your Employer Has the Right to Rain on Vacation Plans

June 29, 1997

Q Is it legal for a manager to dictate to an hourly employee the exact time when vacation can be taken, including breaking the time into separate one-week periods?

--S.A., Huntington Beach

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A Since vacation pay is not required by law, there is nothing illegal about an employer deciding when vacation may be taken by its employees. Most vacation pay policies provide that vacation will be scheduled at the discretion of the employer.

You should look at your employer's vacation policy. If there is such a provision, you would appear to have no complaint.

If, however, your manager is telling you something that contradicts the vacation pay policy, you may have a valid point to make and should discuss it with your human resources department or your manager's supervisor.

--Michael A. Hood

Employment law attorney

Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker

When Interview Panel Has Biases

Q I will soon be interviewing for a vacant management position within my current place of employment. I have learned that one member of the interview panel is the person who formerly filled this position.

This former manager has verbally expressed to his subordinates his dislike for me, which stems from his disapproval of a decision I made in my personal life. I did not work for this person, nor did this decision affect my work.

I do not believe this person can objectively judge my qualifications to fill his former position because of his personal feelings toward me. Should I request that this person be removed from the panel during my interview?

--K.H., Los Angeles

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A If you feel that this manager cannot be objective and may give you an unfair evaluation, you should voice your concerns to the person in charge of the hiring process.

Evaluations made from interviews tend to be subjective, and are prone to bias. This could put you at a disadvantage if one of the interview panel members has a preexisting negative view of you.

Yet, you must be very diplomatic about this. Rather than requesting that the person be removed from the panel, a better approach might be to mention your concerns to the person in charge and let that individual decide what he or she wants to do about it. Even if the former manager is not removed from the interview panel, the person in charge might take the manager's biases into account when making the final hiring decision.

You should realize, however, that by mentioning your concerns to persons involved in the hiring process, you incur some risk that some of the panel members might form a negative impression of you. But if the hiring process is focused on valid requirements for performing this job, the best qualified person will likely be hired.

During your interview, be sure to emphasize the positives--your skills and qualifications for the job.

--Ron Riggio, director

Kravis Leadership Institute

Claremont McKenna College

401(k) Payout Can Take Time

Q How long does an employer have to process a 401(k) final distribution request? I left my former employer in the middle of last year and have not been able to get them to process my distribution request.

Is legal action my only recourse?

--J.B., Huntington Beach

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A The delay does not necessarily mean that anything is wrong, but it is long enough for concern.

If your plan is on a yearly valuation basis, it takes some time after the end of the year to determine the value of your account.

If your plan is on a quarterly valuation basis, you should have started receiving payments within a few months of the end of the quarter in which you left. A delay of this magnitude would be abnormal.

I suggest you first contact your former employer and ask for an explanation. If you get no response, you might contact the local office of the U.S. Department of Labor's Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration and ask that they contact your former employer to find out what is going on.

--James J. McDonald Jr.

Attorney, Fisher & Phillips

Labor law instructor, UC Irvine

Monthly Paycheck May Be Illegal

Q I recently started a new position at a company with about eight employees. My employer pays a monthly salary.

A friend told me that only government workers could be paid monthly; that everyone else must be paid weekly or bimonthly.

--T.C., Santa Monica

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A From what you say, your employer is in violation of law. The general rule is that employees must be paid twice a month.

Exceptions to this rule include automobile salespeople, who can be paid once a month on their commissions, and state government workers.

It is also illegal for your employer to retaliate against you if you complain about it. I would suggest writing an informal note to raise the issue, and keeping a copy of it.

--Don D. Sessions

Employee rights attorney

Mission Viejo

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