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Published January 13 2011

Bill targets North Dakota workers who don’t give proper notice

BISMARCK – North Dakota workers who don’t give their boss enough notice when they quit could soon pay for it.

Senate Bill 2138 states employers can withhold payment of accrued paid time off if the worker has been there less than two years and gave less than 10 days’ notice.

“We’re trying to give them an incentive to give their employer the heads-up so that the employer can make the adjustment, plan accordingly,” said Sen. David Hogue, R-Minot, the primary sponsor.

The idea drew discussion both for and against on Wednesday during a committee hearing.

The bill stems from short-term employees who don’t show up for work and don’t tell anybody, leaving the supervisor to scramble to find a replacement, Hogue said.

Employers then also have to track down the employees who quit to give them their paid-time-off check, he said.

“It is a very narrowly crafted bill that deals with a very limited situation,” Hogue said.

David Kemnitz of the North Dakota AFL-CIO opposed the bill.

“This is an attempt to make the state law, the state of North Dakota, a police enforcer of what could be termed as a capricious act of an employer retaliation to an employee that left,” he said.

Some employees may have a good reason for suddenly leaving employment, like medical or sexual harassment situations, Kemnitz said.

The bill also promotes a poor image of employers in the state, he said.

Bill co-sponsor Sen. Oley Larsen, R-Minot, defended the bill, saying it isn’t right for workers to leave employers hanging. Sen. Mac Schneider, D-Grand Forks, asked if employers could include the policy in their employee handbooks instead of making the matter a state law.

Labor Commissioner Tony Weiler said employers could control the issue by creating a policy that states employees can’t take vacation time within the first two years. This would mean employees could accrue time, but it wouldn’t be earned until they had been there two years.

Weiler gave neutral testimony on the bill, but said he had concerns. For one, North Dakota is an employment at will state, he said. Under current law, neither employee nor employer has to give any notice.

The Senate committee did not take immediate action on the bill.

Finneman is a multimedia reporter for Forum Communications Co.