HB Legal: Employment Law
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Marr Jones & Wang commonly receives questions from clients about workplace issues. Here are some examples:
Christopher J. Cole Partner
Q: I have an employee who is just not working out. Can I fire him if I document his performance deficiencies?
A: Hawaii is an “at-will” state. With some exceptions, employers can terminate employees for any reason or no reason at all, including for poor performance. Timely documentation, along with consistent policies, can help deter wrongful termination lawsuits. But belated efforts to “write up” an employee could actually make matters worse. Employers faced with poorly documented performance issues may wish to consider other options, such as a performance improvement plan.
Q: Is it legal in Hawaii to run a background check on job applicants?
A: For most employers in Hawaii, criminal and credit checks are unlawful unless a conditional job offer is first extended. Criminal convictions up to 10 years old and poor credit history may be cited to revoke a conditional offer, but only if rationally related to job duties. The law contains other detailed provisions, including certain exemptions.
Q: My staff often eats lunch at their desks during their 1-hour unpaid meal period. Does the law require that I pay them for this time?
A: Employers must pay their workers for all “hours worked” as necessary to comply with wage and hour laws. Employees who eat lunch at their desks may be deemed “working” if they are interrupted by work matters, even if they are not continuously working. An employer who “suffers or permits work” – meaning the employer knows the employee is working (or could find out by looking), and lets the employee work without pay – could be found in violation of the law even if the employer tells the employees they are free to leave the premises for lunch, or that overtime is not authorized. There are ways to minimize this liability, and the law provides defenses that may apply in your case.
This article is intended to address issues of general interest and is not intended to constitute legal advice or to substitute for the advice of legal counsel.
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