Mason-Draffen, a business reporter, writes a column about workplace issues.
DEAR CARRIE: The specialty retailer I work for cut my full-time position and a friend's because of our store's weak performance last year. The company told us that we had to accept part-time hours or leave. We both agreed to work part time. The reduced hours are bad enough. What's worse is that our manager is unwilling to work with us to give us fixed schedules so that we can find additional work to make up for our lost wages. He has no trouble giving other part-time associates a schedule. I contacted our human resources department, and someone from there has yet to get back to me about the scheduling policy, if the company has one. Do we have any recourse? -- Shifting Hours
DEAR SHIFTING: A company is free to determine what hours its employees work, absent a union contract or employment agreement that says otherwise.
But that's true with one big exception: The company can't discriminate. I am wondering what your manager's motives are since he is able to give other part-time sales associates schedules ahead of time but is unwilling to extend the same courtesy to you and your friend.
If you are both over 40 and the other associates are younger, your exclusion could be tantamount to age discrimination. That may not be the manager's intention, but it could be the effect. His action would probably raise eyebrows at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
I would contact human resources again for help on how to broach the subject with your supervisor. If you can't get anything resolved, you may want to consider contacting the EEOC.
DEAR CARRIE: If an employee goes on vacation, then returns to work and quits two to three days later, does the company have to pay the person for the vacation time? We get paid every two weeks, so the paycheck with the vacation pay was still outstanding when the person resigned. -- After Vacation
DEAR AFTER: Whether the person gets paid for that vacation will depend on what the company's vacation policy says. Some policies state employees who quit automatically forfeit any accrued vacation time. Despite that leeway, state law requires employers to notify employees of paid time off forfeiture rules in writing ahead of time.
"To be valid, the employer must have told employees, in writing, of the conditions that nullify the benefit," the Labor Department's website states.
If the company lacks a written forfeiture policy and the employee has earned the vacation time, then state law says that "the employer must pay the employee for the accrued vacation."
In the scenario you described, the person quit before the check was issued. So the company may be able to deduct the forfeited vacation time, depending on its written policy.
But if the check with the vacation was already paid, the company would have a more difficult time getting that money back.
If the company deducts the vacation time and the person feels it was illegal, he or she should file a complaint with the state Labor Department.
For more on state labor law regarding paid time off and a claim form to contest questionable pay deductions go to http://on.ny.gov/1pESach.