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Employees Need to Have Work Evaluated Regularly

WORK & CAREERS | SHOP TALK

February 14, 1999

Q: Do you have any tips on motivating a manager to give performance reviews on time? My manager is supposed to give them every six months. No matter how much I remind her, it's never done more often than once a year. --A.N., Anaheim

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A: Unfortunately, many managers see performance reviews as simply another chore in an already crowded schedule. However, regular performance evaluations are one of a supervisor's most important tasks. Employees need regular, formal and frequent feedback about their work performance in order to improve, advance and stay motivated. It also lets supervisors chart progress and diagnose problems.

Here is a suggestion: At the end of each performance period, prepare a report that details your progress and accomplishments. Provide relevant documentation. This will not only serve as a reminder, but also will provide your supervisor with a starting point for your performance review. It will also help prevent any important achievements from being overlooked.

--Ron Riggio, director

Kravis Leadership Institute

Claremont McKenna College

Comparing Job Classifications

Q: Our employer is paying overtime at a straight time rate to all accountants and senior accountants. The human relations department said we are paid this rate because the employer has classified us all as exempt employees. From my research on the issue, it seems as if we are not exempt employees and should be paid time-and-one-half for overtime. I have also found out that other types of supervisors within the agency won a lawsuit over this issue, were compensated, and now are paid time-and-one-half for overtime. Can you tell me what our status should be? --A.L., Los Angeles

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A: I would need more information to determine whether you should be classified as an exempt or nonexempt employee. But merely because some supervisors in your agency were improperly classified--and won the right to be paid overtime--does not mean that you have not been correctly classified as exempt. Under both federal and state law, there are three basic exemptions from the overtime requirement: executive, administrative and professional. Each exemption depends on the nature of the duties and responsibilities of the person who occupies the position.

In your case, I suspect that your employer has classified you as exempt as a professional employee, rather than as an executive like the supervisors in your agency who were evidently improperly classified.

Whether or not you are truly a professional depends on a number of factors, such as whether you have a college degree and/or certification or a license from the state; whether you are engaged in work that requires a specialized skill, knowledge or training; and whether you exercise discretion and independent judgment in performing your duties.

You should check with the U.S. Department of Labor or the California Labor Commissioner's office to determine whether your employer is justified in considering you exempt.

--Michael A. Hood, employment law attorney

Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker

Objection to Driving With Smoker

Q: My work requires that I visit suppliers on site at times. My company pays mileage and other expenses if we turn in an expense report.

My supervisor requested that to save on mileage expense, I take a co-worker in my car, although he smokes and I'm asthmatic. I said I did not want this person in my car even though I would not allow him to smoke.

My supervisor, who knows my condition, said I could not refuse to take someone in my car since the company pays the mileage. But I don't file an expense report for the mileage. Instead, I keep a log and deduct what is legal from my own personal taxes. Can the company force me to take a known smoker, or anyone for that matter, in my own car when I'm traveling on company business?--R.H., Long Beach

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A: An employer has a duty to reasonably accommodate certain physical disabilities of its employees and to provide a safe and healthful work environment.

Your refusal to carpool with a smoker might be legitimate if you can demonstrate that you have a physical reaction when you are near someone who has been smoking. Your position would be stronger if you can provide a doctor's note describing your allergy to smoke.

You don't have as many rights, however, in refusing to allow nonsmokers to ride with you. Employers have a legitimate interest in limiting the travel expenses of employees. The employer must reimburse you for all reasonable expenses, and you might want to claim that you are entitled to additional reimbursement because of the added liability of taking a co-worker on your trips. You might also note that you're not a trained, professional driver.

Your practice of not filing an expense report should have no bearing here. After all, you still might decide eventually to file a claim for reimbursement, although you currently say you are not making a request.

Before pursuing any effort to not drive nonsmoking passengers, you should determine how often the issue arises and whether it's worth raising. The squeaky wheel often gets the grease, but sometimes it later gets "the boot" as well.

--Don D. Sessions, employee rights attorney

Mission Viejo

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If you have a question about an on-the-job situation, please mail it to Shop Talk, Los Angeles Times, P.O. Box 2008, Costa Mesa, CA 92626. Include your initials and hometown. The column is designed to answer questions of general interest. It should not be construed as legal advice.

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