Avoid Favors and Exceptions to Policies

  1. As a general rule, employers should not make exceptions to company policies and procedures unless there is a clear business case for doing so, such as an urgent and compelling circumstance that makes the exception necessary for some reason.

  2. Exceptions from rules, including "favors" for employees, can potentially put an employer at risk of charges of favoritism and discrimination.

  3. Too many exceptions can swallow a rule and render it effectively irrelevant.

  4. Human nature being what it is, employees are quick to forget favors and slow to forget grievances, so an employer who does favors for employees often finds that employees come to expect them - over time, some employees become more and more demanding and ungrateful.

  5. Exceptions include forgiving rule violations and allowing some employees to disregard procedures, but not others.

  6. Favors include things like loans, wage advances, paid leave advances, bailing employees or their family members out of jail, letting them use equipment that others are not allowed to use, and so on.

  7. It is particularly risky to loan money or advance wages or paid leave, because if that is not done with a clear written repayment agreement authorizing deductions from wages, the employer may not ever be able to recoup the money without taking the employee to court.

  8. Even with a valid wage deduction authorization agreement, if the employee gets a loan or advance and quits suddenly, the employer might not be able to fully recover the money.

  9. As an example of just how sorry an employer can be that it did a favor for an employee, consider this story from an actual wage claim that was filed in late 2006: The employer had allowed an employee paid time off for his wife's maternity-related medical appointments and for spending time with their baby. The employer verbally agreed with the employee that the paid days off would be repaid a day at a time from future paychecks, but when the employee walked off the job soon after the child's birth, the employer deducted the amount all at once from the final paycheck. Since the deduction agreement was not in writing, the employer lost the Texas Payday Law wage claim that the claimant filed. The claimant sent the following e-mail to the employer:

    "I know we agreed to you taking the five days you paid me for that I didn't work, one paycheck at a time, but I quit before you could take your money back. You are a dumb s***!!! The Texas Commission says without my signature you can say we agreed to this verbally but you lose since I didn't sign anything. I intentionally left your store open when I quit, hope someone came in and stole everything in the store. Answer my call so I can tell you what a dumb s*** you are. I know (sic) have a new trick with my next job, take days off, promise to do makeup work, get paid and then quit."

    (Regarding whether an employer may legally report such things in conjunction with job references, see the topic in the first section of the book titled "References and Background Checks" and the article "Job References".)

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