Human Resource Blog

Where HR Professionals Seek Answers

A Practical Source For Your Daily HR Needs.Lets Build An HR Blog Community Together! Want To Share Your HR Knowledge Or Gain Knowledge Through Other Professionals?Lets Discuss HR!

‘Management / Leadership Development’ Category


employee theft of company data

I just purchased a printing business which includes a free daily paper. The advertising pays for the expenses of the paper.

This business had 2 fulltime employees + the owner. Before closing employees planned to stay with the company after the sale.

On our first day of ownership they told me they do not plan to stay. This is fine except for the fact that one of the former employee took the backup system and with it, all the data.

Now they have opened a business down the street with a daily paper that is just like ours with a different name on the top.

Do I have any options at this point?

You do have options, but you need to consult an attorney immediately. We see two avenues of approach here.

Unless the employees have signed a written non-compete agreement, there is no law that prevents them from opening a competing paper. However, the distinctive layout and design of your paper may be covered by trademark protection.

There is also, obviously, the issue of the employees stealing the computer disk or other backup system containing confidential business information. In some states, this theft is a crime punishable by law. In many states, it is a felony to use a computer to commit a crime. To protect your rights, at the very least you should call the police and report the theft of this backup system, which is potentially worth $10,000+ to your business. The police will investigate, which may make your former employees think twice about this tactic.

In other states, you may have to sue the employees for theft of confidential business information. An attorney will walk you through this process. Meanwhile, you should do everything you possibly can to continue publication of your paper, and especially contact each advertiser to let them know that you are still around, and you are the same, official free newspaper.


Suspending an Hourly Employee

Is is ok to suspend or dock an hourly employee for a week for a minor infraction? This one is regarding missing a meeting when the employee was granted a two week vacation?

Unpaid suspensions for one to seven days are lawful, but they should be reserved for the most serious transgressions at work, such as bringing a weapon to work or sexually harassing another employee. They should not be used for minor infractions.

In most states, it is unlawful to dock an employees salary for disciplinary purposes. If the employee works, they must be paid. However, it is lawful to suspend an employee by giving him or her time off without pay — with the stipulations mentioned above.

If the employee were not on vacation, many employers would not consider missing a meeting a minor infraction. Missing a mandatory meeting is comparable to missing any other scheduled shift. In particular, it can be seen to send a disrespectful message to a new manager. However, the situation is different when the employee is on vacation.

There is absolutely no expectation that an employee on vacation should attend meetings or any other work functions. An employee on vacation is on vacation, as in not working for the entire period. It is completely unreasonable to expect an employee to work even a few minutes while on vacation. Presumably, this vacation was approved in advance. That means management knew from the beginning that the employee would be absent from the meeting. Obviously if the employee was spending her vacation in Europe, you would not expect her to fly back for a two-hour meeting. The same expectations apply to an employee who is spending her vacation at home. On vacation means on vacation, or not working at all.

It is important to keep the purpose of paid vacations in mind. Studies have shown that taking a week or more away from work, with pay, actually increases an employees productivity throughout the year. Employees who are paid for 52 weeks but work only 50, actually accomplish more than employees who work all 52 weeks. Therefore, it is in your best interest as an employer to ensure that your employees take their full two weeks of vacation uninterrupted, so they can return to work relaxed and refreshed.

January 9th, 2012, 7:18 AM |  Posted in: Management / Leadership Development |
Ask a question | No Comments | Permalink

Reporting Missing Workers While in an Acting Status

Over the holidays, I was appointed to “act” in a supervisory capacity in place of my supervisor, who was out of the office. Amongst normal supervisory duties, this required me to “supervise” the other employees in this section, (normally my co-workers), 2-3 people, max. I noticed that 2 employees left work early 2 days in a row, without saying anything to me. One employee went on a 2.5 hour lunch date as well.

As the acting supervisor, should I report this kind of behavior to the real supervisor when they return or should I just look the other way? The employees are my co-workers on a normal basis, this was just different circumstances.

Yes, you should absolutely report these infractions to the “real” supervisor — and ideally, you would have done so the minute she walked in the door after her leave.  On the playground, tattletales are shunned, but in the workplace you should report any behavior that is illegal, unethical, detrimental to productivity or detrimental to employee morale, even if you are not the acting supervisor.

If your coworkers are hourly, and they did not clock out for these absences, they actually committed fraud, stealing payroll dollars from the company.

The purpose of appointing an “acting” supervisor is to make sure the other employees do not take a 2.5 hour lunch or leave work several hours early. If this type of behavior was okay, there would be no need for an acting supervisor. In fact, many acting supervisors would have been given the authority to write up employees who behaved in this way.

In one sense, you are being set up because you are expected to be in charge but apparently have been given no training or authority to do so. Ideally, you would have been given the authority to discipline the other employees in your supervisors absence, and given some training in how to supervise other employees. You should tactfully let your boss know now that before her next vacation, you would very much appreciate some training and support.

In another sense, your coworkers are testing you — and so far, you have failed. A major portion of a supervisors responsibility is to ensure that others do what they are supposed to, not what they want to. If you cannot learn to enforce the usual work hours, you will not make an effective supervisor in the future.

The fact that your boss appointed you as the “acting supervisor” indicates that you are at least being considered for a promotion — which is a compliment. However, if you cannot get your coworkers to cooperate, then you will not succeed in that capacity. This did not have to be a huge confrontation. After the two employees left early the first time, you should have simply spoken to each in private. You could have reminded them of the work hours and let them know that you would appreciate it very much if they showed their usual excellent work ethic while you were in charge. Ideally, this would have prevented a recurrence. The ability to discuss an unpleasant topic without being nasty is a hallmark of maturity.

Because you did not take these steps, you should approach the supervisor now. Present this information as “just so you know, this is what happened while you were gone… I was not sure how to handle it. If this happens again, what should I do?” Then take your cue from the supervisors response.


demoting manager

Can an employer demote a manager to a position where he/she is under supervision of those once supervised due to “financial reasons”?

This tactic is lawful, but it is not a best practice and seems somewhat deceptive.

There is no law that would prevent any employer from demoting a supervisor to a non-supervisory position. In fact, this type of demotion occurs every day, especially if the supervisor is not effective. Employers have the right to make decisions based upon business necessity, and obviously any business needs effective supervisors.

The best practice in demoting a supervisor would be to transfer her to another department if possible, so that she was not working directly for one of her former employees. Unless both employees show unusual levels of maturity, this new arrangement is unlikely to work.

Your claim that this change is due to financial reasons is deceptive. You might eliminate the position of supervisor for financial reasons, but it would not be necessary to promote someone else over the former supervisor for that reason. It is better to be honest with employees about the reasons for actions, than to lie about it.

December 28th, 2011, 7:26 AM |  Posted in: Management / Leadership Development |
Ask a question | No Comments | Permalink

Manager Asking Employee About Another Employee

I work in HR for a prominent company that is involved in wind energy. Today a technician recieved a safety violation for not performing LOTO. Later that day the manager brought the other technicians into the office that were not involved, asking them, “do you feel safe working with Joe?” Is it legal for a manager to present that question in an open discussion?

This conduct is legal, but you are right to be concerned about it.

There is nothing unlawful or unethical in asking employees for specific or general information about a coworker. In the schoolyard, tattletales are discouraged. In the workplace, they are encouraged, expected and often rewarded. In fact, many employers consider it part of a workers duties to inform the employer if something unethical is going on — and rightfully so.

Every employee has the responsibility to ensure a safe working environment, particularly when working under hazardous conditions with electricity and wind turbines. This includes providing information on any employee with unsafe work practices. Many employers would terminate an employee who had one major safety violation under these circumstances.

So if the manager merely called employees into his office individually and asked an open-ended question like, “How do you feel about your coworkers? Do you have any concerns?” that would be acceptable.

However, the way this manager is going about gathering information is unfair and ineffective. While such conduct is not illegal, it is poor business management. This type of inquiry is often referred to in the HR world as a “witch hunt.”

The manager has it in for Joe but does not have sufficient evidence to terminate him. In an attempt to gather more evidence, the manager is asking coworkers leading questions to uncover negative information about Joe. The coworkers realize that if they want to stay in the managers good graces, they should say something negative about Joe. The manager will then egg them on until he has sufficient reason to terminate Joe.

This is very poor management, but it is lawful. While we commend this managers focus on safety, we are less than impressed with his supervisory skills.

Home Ask a Question Archives

© 2008, All Rights Reserved