YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Shop Talk

Employer May Change Terms of a Job to Meet Firm's Needs

February 18, 2001

Q: I hired a woman as a part-time receptionist. She worked her way up to an accounting clerk position after two months and got her first raise after four months.

When she asked for another raise recently, I suggested she needed to work more hours and learn the two software programs we use. I also said we really needed a full-time person at her desk and I was giving her first crack at it.

She refused, as she has before. She offered to go back to being a receptionist. I said that was fine, but not at her current salary. She angrily left without notice.

She is now filing for unemployment, saying I let her go because she couldn't work full time. Her argument is she was hired as a part-time employee and I knew she couldn't work full time because she wanted to be available for her young daughter after school.

Do I have the right to request more hours from an employee, to change the requirements of the job?

--T.T., Irvine

A: You have a right to change the requirements of a job in response to the demands of your business. You are also within your rights to insist that an employee meet those requirements.

Employees who resign are generally excluded from receiving unemployment compensation benefits, unless the resignation is for "good cause." The Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board construes this to mean an employee must have a compelling reason for voluntarily leaving a job.

This is not a precise test, but employees who leave a job due to personal preferences or family issues are typically held not to have compelling reasons for doing so.

If you wish to oppose this claim for unemployment benefits, you must notify the state Employment Development Department within the time period specified.

--James J. McDonald Jr.

Attorney, Fisher & Phillips

Labor law instructor, UC Irvine

Hiring Firms May Ask to See Job Appraisals

Q: I work for a large company that does not allow references for departing employees.

At a company seminar, the host stated that since many companies only confirm a person's employment dates, hiring companies are asking applicants for copies of two previous performance appraisals from their last or current job.

Is this permitted? It would seem to be an invasion of an employee's private personnel records, even though the information is being requested from the applicant and not the employer.

--K.S., Glendale

A: It is not an invasion of privacy for companies to ask applicants to provide previous appraisals. Employers have a legitimate interest in determining how a prospective employee performed in past jobs.

Reviewing an evaluation is really no different from telephoning a reference except that the information may be more accurate.

Nonetheless, employers who want to adopt this approach should be mindful of a few potential problems.

First, the California Labor Code requires only that an employer provide an employee with copies of documents signed by the employee. If the employee did not sign the performance appraisal, the former employer may choose not to give the employee a copy.

Second, if the former employer did not have a sophisticated understanding of employment laws, it may have included information in the appraisal that the next employer would rather not know before making an employment decision, such as information regarding a disability or medical condition.

Finally, the prospective employer may end up comparing apples to oranges if the grading scale is not a familiar one. Is a "satisfactory" from one company the same as a "satisfactory" from another?

A previous work evaluation may be, at best, just one tool among many in selecting a new employee.

--Jo Tucker

Employment law attorney

Morrison & Foerster


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 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.

Los Angeles Times Articles