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Worker Is Required to Pay Union Dues

October 15, 2000

Q: After my son was hired as a supermarket courtesy clerk, he started receiving letters from the local union telling him that he must join the union or he would be terminated. I have heard from others that California is a "right-to-work state," meaning my son can't be terminated if he chooses not to join the union. Who is correct?

--S.S., Carlsbad

A: Your son's union is correct. California is not a "right-to-work" state.

In a "right-to-work" state, such as Arizona, Nevada or Texas, an employee cannot be discharged for failing to pay union dues.

In California, as well as most states with large numbers of union-represented employees, an employee can be fired for failing to pay dues or fees uniformly required of all union-represented employees.

In return for paying dues, your son's union is required to represent employees in negotiating wages, health benefits, job security and other workplace protections.

In deciding whether to join the union or take a job with a nonunion supermarket operator, your son should talk to other store employees whom he trusts about the pluses and minuses of union membership. He should review the union contract and compare the pay scales, availability of a grievance procedure and the range of health and other benefits in union and nonunion supermarkets. He also should consider asking the union's representative tough questions about his contract rights.

He may find that the benefits of union representation outweigh the cost of monthly dues payments.

--Joseph L. Paller Jr.

Union, employee attorney

Gilbert & Sackman

Employer Must Keep Track of Hours Worked

Q: A recent hire at my office walked off her job after 10 days. I had reprimanded her the day before for falling behind on her duties.

When I ran the payroll report I found that she had not clocked out on three of the 10 days she had worked, so I have no way of knowing how many hours she worked.

What are my obligations to her?

--S.D., La Mesa

A: An employer is required to pay nonexempt employees for all hours worked. It is the employer's responsibility to keep track of hours worked by these employees.

If you were the employee's supervisor, you should have kept track of her hours or made sure she was doing that for you.

The company had an obligation to pay the employee her full wages for all hours worked (and for accrued vacation time, if any) within 72 hours of her resignation. If the company failed to pay all accrued wages in a timely manner, it can be held liable for a "waiting time" penalty of a day's pay for up to 30 days.

Since you do not know how many hours this employee worked, you will have to guess at the amount owed. If you are wrong, the company can be held liable for the waiting time penalties, as well as any additional amounts due.

--Deborah C. Saxe

Management attorney

Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe

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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; dictate it to (714) 966-7873, or e-mail it to shoptalk@latimes.com. Include your initials and hometown. The Shop Talk column is designed to answer questions of general interest. It should not be construed as legal advice. Recent shoptalk columns are available at http://www.latimes.com/shoptalk.

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