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After a Worker Resigns, Firm May Choose Parting Date

March 18, 2001

Q: I was a salaried marketing manager at a local company. After giving two weeks' notice to join a competitor, I was escorted out of the building.

The company contended that since I am an "at-will" employee, it has the right to discharge me before I intended to leave.

What are my options?

--B.M., Orange

A: You probably don't have any options.

In accepting your resignation, your employer is entitled to choose your final date of employment if it wishes.

In fact, when employees who occupy sensitive positions in which they deal with customers or the public resign, especially to work for the competition, it is not uncommon for employers to move up the date of resignation.

Many employers in such circumstances will provide two weeks' pay in lieu of notice, especially when the employers ask employees to provide advance notice of resignation.

There is, however, no legal obligation to provide such pay.

--Michael A. Hood

Employment law attorney

Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker

Employers Must Pay for Training in Most Cases

Q: As our company began to switch computer systems, it offered employees training. But for every paid hour of training, employees have been required to work another hour on their own time.

Now the company is going to require employees to work 16 extra hours a week with no pay and work on actual tasks rather than just training exercises.

Can the company force these hourly employees to work without pay?

--M.L., Los Angeles

A: Employers must pay for work performed by their employees.

The employer's practice of not paying you for working on your own time while paying for some of your training time is inconsistent and illegal.

Additionally, employers must pay for employee training programs unless all of the following criteria are met:

* Attendance must be voluntary and the training program must be available outside the employee's regular working hours. If the employee understands or is led to believe that his working conditions or his employment would be adversely affected by skipping the training, attendance would not be voluntary.

* The program must not be directly related to the employer's job. If the training is designed to help the employee handle the job more efficiently, it would be considered directly related to the employee's job.

* The employee must not perform any productive work during such attendance.

In your situation, you should be paid because your employer apparently is requiring you to work on functions directly related to your job.

Of course, salaried employees who are exempt from overtime rules have to work whatever hours it takes to do their job without further compensation.

It is unlawful for an employer to retaliate against employees who complain about this arrangement.

If an employee is fired for complaining, the employer would be liable for wrongful termination.

--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; 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 Shop Talk columns are available at http://www.latimes.com/shoptalk.

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