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Direct-Deposit Stragglers Can’t Be Harassed

June 17, 2008

Q: I help do payroll for a small company. The boss strongly encourages the employees to sign up for direct deposit of their pay, and most of the employees have been glad to comply. But a few insist on being paid by check.

These same few complain on the rare occasions when their paychecks are held up in the mail. Those complaints, and the prospect of saving some more money and increasing efficiency, have my boss looking into mandating direct deposits for everybody.

I don’t like the idea of mandates, but could we do this if we wanted to?

A: Employers can persuade all they want to, including offering incentives, but they cannot require their workers to be paid by direct deposit, said Theresa Gallion, a labor-and-employment lawyer with Fisher & Phillips in Orlando.

The persuasion should be positive, Gallion said. Companies that harass or discipline a worker for not accepting direct deposit could find themselves facing a lawsuit if the harassed worker quits.

In any case, Florida law specifically prohibits employers from discriminating or retaliating against employees who do not authorize direct deposit, said Gallion, whose firm represents companies rather than workers.

LISTEN UP, POLITICIANS

More than half of U.S. workers think the American dream is a pipe dream, with nearly three-quarters saying the goal of a nice home, financial security and hope for the future is less attainable now than eight years ago.

That’s according to the 14th annual “Attitudes in the American Workplace” survey, conducted last month by Zogby International.

The telephone survey of 755 U.S. workers was sponsored by The Marlin Co., a workplace communications consulting firm.

More than three-quarters (77 percent) of those surveyed said the political system was ignoring workplace issues such as health care, retirement and the economy. Forty-five percent of the workers said they were bitter, blaming the political system for causing a deterioration of their economic circumstances.

Workers “feel that politicians aren’t speaking to them about important issues,” said Marlin President Frank Kenna. “There is clearly massive frustration here, and (political) candidates need to address this disconnect.”

PRICEY COMMUTES

High gas prices are changing the commuting habits of workers, with 44 percent of surveyed U.S. employees saying they have taken steps to cut their commuting costs, according to a new survey by staffing company Robert Half International.

Of those who say they have changed their commuting habits _ which could include more than one change _ 46 percent said they are doing more carpooling, 33 percent said they are driving a more fuel-efficient vehicle, and 33 percent said they are telecommuting more frequently.

Other changes cited by the 539 full- and part-time surveyed employees included: working fewer days of the week (26 percent), more frequent use of public transportation (23 percent), and walking or biking to work (18 percent).

Thirty percent of the workers said they were looking for a job closer to home.

A similar survey conducted in 2006 reported that 34 percent of workers had changed their commuting habits because of high gas prices.

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(Harry Wessel is a reporter for The Orlando Sentinel. He can be reached at 407-420-5506 or hwessel@orlandosentinel.com.)

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(c) 2008, The Orlando Sentinel (Fla.).

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Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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