Most people have heard all about the legal rights of employees in the workplace and the protections against certain conduct by employers. Less discussion focuses on the rights of employers. As a result, employers and their managers do not have a good understanding of the extent of their authority vis-a-vis their employees. Yet to be effective managers, employers should understand what rights they have in the workplace.
Rights of Employers in the Workplace
The extent of employer rights is governed by applicable state law and any labor union agreement that may exist covering the employees. Below is a quick summary highlighting some of the most important, basic rights of employers.
The employer can terminate the employment relationship with an employee at any time for any reason. Common limitations on the at-will employment relationship are found in labor agreements and employment contracts. Those negotiated agreements will typically impose terms and conditions for terminating an employee. Those contract provisions supersede the at-will relationship and limit the employer’s rights to freely terminate an employee.
Employees can terminate the employment relationship at any time, also. However, if an employee walks off the job or quits without giving notice, the employer does have certain rights. For example, the failure to give notice allows the employer to deem the employee ineligible for rehire. In some cases, designating an employee ineligible for rehire can impair the employee’s ability to find a new job. Being ineligible for rehire can have long term consequences for these employees. If multiple employees walk off the job, employers may fire them in some states and under certain conditions.
Define Job Roles, Set Hiring Criteria, and Define Suitability Standards
Employers have every right to establish minimum educational requirements and experience levels for any job position. Employers can make subjective evaluations about a candidate’s ability to fit into the company culture. As long as the employer’s decision is not based on race, gender, age, disability, or other protected category, the employer has the discretion to make whatever selections are in the employer’s best interest. Employers need to be aware that any decision that is based on illegal discrimination can result in legal liability and even personal liability on the part of the individual decision-makers.
Establish Company Policies and Procedures For Workplace Performance and Behavior
Employers have the right to establish policies and procedures governing such matters as employee ethics, leave policies, pay, pay for performance, and behavior when interacting with customers or the public. Employer policies can include social media usage during work hours and after hours. Employers can also establish dress and grooming standards. The purpose of the dress standards can be that the dress standards are necessary for safety reasons, to allow customers to identify company employees easily, to maintain a level of professionalism in the workplace, to project a specific brand image, or any other business purpose. Having these policies and procedures in writing, accessible by all employees, helps show they are applied fairly and consistently to all employees and will help an employer defend against an employee claiming unfair or discriminatory treatment.
Require Mandatory Overtime
Nothing prevents employers from requiring their employees to work overtime. However, if an employee works overtime, employers must pay them consistent with applicable federal and state law. Most employers are aware that they must pay their hourly workers at overtime rates, but most salaried employees are not entitled to extra overtime pay.
Monitor Employees’ Use of Office Equipment
Employees have very limited rights to personal privacy in the workplace, especially when the office space and equipment are provided to the employee by the employer. This means employers have the right to monitor employees’ use of it. In most states, for example, employers can monitor their employees’ phone conversations (even record them in some states), text messaging, and computer usage. Employers can restrict access to social media and other non-work related sites. Employers can also search for file cabinets, desks, and offices being used by the employee in the workplace. Before implementing any monitoring activities, employers should know this is a sensitive area of law. Become familiar with the applicable state laws and what limitations, if any, the laws impose on employers’ rights.
Monitor Employee Use of Social Media in Violation of Company Policy
Employers can monitor their employees’ activities on company premises at any time and can establish a company policy on employees’ posts on social media. Many employers are concerned that employees who post certain information or offensive statements on social media reflect poorly on the company. To ensure that employees comply with the company policy, employers can monitor employees’ public postings. If an employer finds a posting that violated the company policy, the employer can take action. Under the employment at-will doctrine, employers can discipline or terminate employees for postings that violate the employer’s policies about social media posts. Note, however, that this is an emerging area in the law. Exactly what the limits are on employers’ rights to restrict employees’ speech on social media when the employees are not on duty are unclear. In a dispute, the employer will need to be able to show that the employee’s postings violated the employer’s policies and caused harm or risk of harm to the employer.
Consult an Experienced Labor and Employment Attorney at KPPB LAW
As an employer, you need to understand the rights afforded to employers in the workplace under applicable federal and state law. In the age of 24-hour access to the internet and social media platforms, the workplace is no longer confined to a specific geographic location. As such, the limits on employers’ rights are blurred. Significant harm to your company’s goodwill can occur very quickly. Get help from a KPPB LAW Labor & Employment attorney. One of these experts can help you understand your legal rights and obligations and make sure your employment policies and procedures protect your company while fully complying with the laws.