The workplace always poses questions, or brings surprises, as these two questions show.
Q: What is the protocol for forming your own company while still working at your current firm? I am debating starting a company, and in the early days I think I could do both, as long as I kept my personal company work mainly to evenings and weekends. Do I need to tell my bosses?
A: Steven Darien, who as chairman and chief executive of the Cabot Advisory Group in Bedminster, N.J., dispenses workplace advice to corporations, said he does not think this budding entrepreneur needs to disclose his new venture.
"As long as he's doing his job, giving fair value to his firm, what he does on his own time is his own business, whether it's playing golf or tennis or starting a company," Darien said. "I think it might be risky if he does (disclose his plans)."
But he also noted that the worker ought to check his company's rules to see if they prohibit starting a business while employed there.
Darien said his advice assumes that the worker is not starting a firm to compete with his current one. Then, he said, "it would be cleaner if he just resigned and moved on."
"If he's not using inside information, if he's got a better mousetrap, then he's fine," Darien said.
Q: My employer recently dissolved the company, saying that employees who stayed to the end would get a bonus. We were not told what the bonus would be or how it would be calculated. Six of us stayed and received about 2 1/2 months' severance. But two weeks after getting the money, the company said it had made a mistake, that the severance was supposed to be two weeks' pay. The company actually took the money out of one employee's checking account and have filed suit against the rest of us. They did not pay me for the last two weeks of work or for accrued vacation but sent me a bill for the alleged overpayment, claiming, with no specific accounting, that the amount due had subtracted the amount owed me for pay and vacation. Do I have any legal remedies?
A: Steve Mandell, a Tysons Corner, Va., lawyer who represents corporations, said the circumstances are complicated but the company is on shaky ground. And because the firm has sued the employees, he said, the workers need competent legal representation.
"In many states, there is a statutory obligation to pay all wages earned and accrued vacation, irrespective of whether he owed the company money," Mandell said. Maryland, where this worker was employed, is among those states.
He said many companies that make direct deposits to employees' checking accounts have employees sign an agreement beforehand that the company has the right to recover an amount in error.
He said whether a company can "recover by litigation or reaching into someone's checking account" depends on whether the company can prove it made a mistake.
In this case, he said, "I'm not sure how they'd prove it, frankly."
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.