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Jane Doe Deer
Jane Doe Deer, Employment Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 3864
Experience:  Atty. 24+ years; Plain English - Discrimination, Fire/Hire, Non-Compete, etc.
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my husband is an engineer who recently took a position in Nov

Customer Question

my husband is an engineer who recently took a position in Nov at a new company. In his letter of employment it is stated that he would need to be available between the hours of 8-5 M-F. The travel was stated for the position at 15%. Unfortunately, he has been traveling nearly 90% (to China) and his employer keeps asking him to travel over the weekends. He has asked to company to not schedule him two weekends a month so that he can see his children (he is divorced and has his children every other weekend). However they keep requesting that he travel over his weekends with his kids and have done so again.

The other concern is that they have asked him not to use his phone to call home...wanting him to Skype only to talk to his children. Due to the international time difference and the fact that his children's mother does not have a computer this is impossible. He is gone in China two weeks at a time and not allowed to call his children unless it is on Skype. The time difference has made it nearly impossible for him to try to get his children to a computer to talk to their Dad. He is currently in China and hasn't been able to speak to his children for over a week.

ONe last issue is that his company asks us to buy the international plane tickets (had we known this up front we would not have taken this job). They drag their feet in approving expenses and often change their mind on what they will expense after the expense had occured (i.e. cell phone). We have not been reimbursed for change fees, international fees that are common when traveling outside of the country. Traveling in China requires a lot of cash and the airline tickets are $1500 each - it is killing us finacially to float the company these expenses.

He is a salaried employee and I cannot find anything that relates to travel issues or company expenses for hours worked for salaried employees. Can you please advise?
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Employment Law
Expert:  Jane Doe Deer replied 3 years ago.

Thank you for contacting Just Answer. I look forward to assisting you. If you started this question in "chat" mode I may have switched you to "question and answer." I sometimes have technical problems getting "chat" to work for me, plus it's hard to read and write in that mode.

 

While we write back and forth, please keep in mind that I do not know what you already know or don't know, or with what you need help, unless you tell me. Sometimes I'm unable to read your entire question until AFTER I write back to you.

 

Although it's usually five minutes, sometimes there can be a delay of an hour or more in between my answers because I may be researching the answer to your question, helping other customers, or taking a break. If we are writing late at night, I may have to go to sleep and resume helping you the following morning.

 

I need the following information before I can answer your question:

 

Can you please tell me whether "all" your husband received was a letter, or did he sign a contract?

 

How hard or easy would it be for your husband to find/obtain another job?

 

By the way, I'm a licensed WA State attorney, working for Just Answer under a pseudonym. (Just wanted you to know).

 

I'll look forward to hearing from you,

 

Jane Doe Deer

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

He recevied a letter of employment - which he signed. They do say that he may be needed during non working hours but we had no idea it would be for weeks on end and over every weekend. This seems excessive to be gone so much especially when it was stated it would only be at 15% travel. He just received another notice that he is to be in China over the kid's spring break (which we have plans) and he will be gone the month of April back in China.

 

He could get another job - he is a specialized mechanical engineer so it would take some time to find another job. In this market - I'm not sure how long it would take him and with him being in China so much it is difficult for him to job search over there. We are looking in to wheter we can live without his income until he finds another job but that is a risky endeavor in this market.

 

Thank you so much.

 

Expert:  Jane Doe Deer replied 3 years ago.

It sounds to me as though this is something of a breach of contract, but it can be hard to pursue with just an employment letter and not an actual contract.

 

What pops into my mind is that you may want to actually hire an attorney who specializes in employment, and particularly in contract disputes, and see if a solution can be mediated. Sometimes the best solution is for the parties to sit around a table and negotiate. It sounds to me as though the employer is really taking advantage of your husband. It's also a good-paying job, and it sounds to me as though your husband would probably want to keep it if it were not for all the BS, so filing a wage claim or a legal action may not be the way to go here.

 

You can see an employment attorney for just an hour consultation and get some good ideas. I'd look for someone with a minimum of five years of employment law experience. Don't actually HIRE an attorney until after checking references. The attorney can review the letter and the facts and give you advice. Unfortunately, I can't give you advice, just information.

 

Here is one place to look for such attorneys: http://welaweb.org/

Be cautious, however. Any attorney can join this organization; it doesn't necessarily mean they're experienced or good.

 

Most WA counties also give referrals through their county bar offices (I don't know what county you're in). Usually, you pay something like $30 for a half hour consultation. Again, these attorneys aren't necessarily good - in fact, some of them may be new attorneys trying to get more business.

 

You may want to try some of the larger law firms, with more resources. You may pay a little bit more, but you get what you pay for.

 

Keep in mind that if and when you hire someone, you need to know whether your retainer is refundable or not. If the attorney doesn't want you to sign a representation agreement before you start, leave.

 

I wish I could recommend specific attorneys, but I'm not allowed to do so here.

 

Expect to pay $200 - $300 hour; some of that money will pay for research, too, so it can be expensive.

 

Here's another idea. There are some non-attorneys who are excellent at negotiating/consulting, etc, and they charge less (should you decide to try the negotiation idea I suggested). Some of these folks may be former union/labor people. There are probably such people in Olympia, Seattle, and Spokane. (I knew someone in Olympia who was excellent, but he may have retired by now). Again, check references.

 

Now, your husband can file a workers' rights complaint and see what happens: http://www.lni.wa.gov/FormPub/Detail.asp?DocID=2367

In theory, he'd be protected from retaliation for doing so. In real life, well, retaliation can be subtle.

 

Meanwhile, make sure your husband keeps excellent records of all costs and overtime associated with this position.

 

It sounds to me as though the company is a slavedriver and thinks it can get away with anything. But it also sounds like a breach of contract - it's just hard to prove when there's no actual contract.

 

I hope that that helps. Since it's Saturday, I'm going to take a bit of a break, and will check back in an hour or so to see if you have any follow-up questions. I'm on the west side of Pierce County, and it's finally not raining, so I want to get outside and do a tad bit of yardwork. If you're in Western WA, you can probably relate, lol! I hope that you don't mind.

 

My best,

 

Jane (in case I forgot to mention this, I'm a licensed WA atty, but use a pseudonym while working for Just Answer).

 

 

Jane Doe Deer, Employment Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 3864
Experience: Atty. 24+ years; Plain English - Discrimination, Fire/Hire, Non-Compete, etc.
Jane Doe Deer and 4 other Employment Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank you... are there any laws that protect salaried employees and reasonable hours worked. He only makes $55k so it isn't like he is an executive or that this is the expectation of his job level. He had the exact same job three years prior to this and didn't have these issues.

 

If you have any references or laws that I can look at that can help us push back on the employer a bit regarding hours worked I would appreciate it. Are there any laws on the books for company expenses too and what reasonable expecations are? We are floating the company thousands of dollars right now waiting to be paid back.

 

I'm in Clark County and will try to find a good lawyer. In the meantime I'm hoping to arm my husband with some information so he knows he can push on his employer without getting fired - at this point he has not been given a date as to when he will be home from China so anything I can help him with is appreciated. If there are any laws I could reference or take a look at that will help while I wait for him to get home.

 

Thanks again,

Expert:  Jane Doe Deer replied 3 years ago.

The primary laws are the ones you already found, through the Labor and Industries site.

 

There is also dol.gov, but the federal laws are not as good as Washington's.

 

There have been a lot of wage and hour lawsuits about this sort of thing in the last ten years or so, but I regret to say I don't know all the in's and out's without doing a lot of research.

 

Clark County should have a referral office. There are also a lot of attorneys in Portland who handle this sort of thing, but the big firms are primarily in Seattle and Tacoma.

 

Here's another helpful website: http://www.washingtonlawhelp.org/WA/StateSubTopics.cfm/County/%20/City/%20/demoMode/%3D%201/Language/1/State/WA/TextOnly/N/ZipCode/%20/LoggedIn/0/iTopicID/871/sTopicImage/work.gif/bAllState/0

 

You can search RCW's (statutes passed by the Legislature) and WACs (rules passed by L&I) here: http://search.leg.wa.gov/pub/textsearch/default.asp

 

If you want to do a caselaw search, visit the Clark County law library, which should be located in or near the county courthouse (I don't remember where that is, since it's been ten years or so since I've been to that court). A law librarian can help you get started on a Westlaw/Lexis online search, or, the old fashioned way, using the research books. Wage and hour claims will probably be found under something old-fashioned and esoteric, such as "Master and Servant" (at least in the books).

 

I still haven't taken my break....going to, now.

 

Thanks for accepting!

 

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