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Q&A: When an Employee Takes Reclassification Personally

Question:

One of our employees who is moving from exempt to non-exempt is taking the change in classification personally. Even after a company-wide meeting with those affected where everything was clearly explained, this employee insisted on having one-on-one follow up meetings with five different managers. We would like to write him up due to the excessive amount of time he has taken from his work and the work of the managers. Do you have any suggestions for the best way to handle this?

Answer: Kara, JD, SPHR, one of our HR Pros says…

I’m sorry this employee is not taking the change well. We anticipated that some employees would be resistant to reclassification and require more convincing that everything will be okay.

I would recommend against disciplining the employee for his behavior thus far. The managers granted all the meetings that the employee requested. Retroactively punishing him for these agreed-to meetings would send a very mixed message and be perceived as grossly unfair.

Assuming the employee has had all of his questions answered clearly, in a way that he should be able to understand, I would suggest telling him that the topic is now closed for discussion and additional working time should not be spent on it. This conversation (or e-mail) should not come across as discipline or even a warning to the employee, but you should document it in case the situation escalates further.

The employee’s classification is squarely within his “terms and conditions of employment,” and discussing those terms and conditions is the right of all employees protected by the National Labor Relations Act. As result, you can’t stop him from—or punish him for—talking about this issue during lunches, breaks, or outside of work, but you can certainly not grant him any additional meetings and you can request that he stay on task during his regular working hours.

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Kara, JD, SPHR

Kara practiced employment law for five years before joining us, and worked in Human Resources for several years prior to that. As an attorney, she worked on many wage and hour and discrimination claims in both state and federal court. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Oregon State University and earned her law degree from Lewis and Clark Law School.

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