Can my employer make me fill out a survey?
November 11, 2010 11:20 AM   Subscribe

Can my employer make me fill out a survey?

Our area requires employers to ask employees to take a survey about their commuting habits. They do not say anything about requiring the employees to take the survey - just about encouraging them to. This is in Southern California, FWIW.

I know YANAL, but my question is... can my employer legally say that it's mandatory for me to fill out the survey; i.e., can they sanction or fire me if I refuse to fill it out?
posted by PandaMcBoof to Work & Money (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Is something compelling you to answer the survey truthfully?
posted by workerant at 11:28 AM on November 11, 2010 [4 favorites]

Employee/Employer rights are often shaped by the stuff you sign on hire. Do you have an employee handbook or HR representative you can consult? If you are looking for a 'the law states...' answer you won't find one until you determine what you agreed to when they hired you. At my work for example, it states that we are not allowed to consume alcohol while at lunch. It is not a Florida employment law, but I am legally obligated to comply because I agreed to it when they went over their company policies at my hire.
posted by Gainesvillain at 11:30 AM on November 11, 2010

California is an at-will state. You can be sanctioned or terminated for anything, as long as it's not illegal (protected classes - age, race, gender, etc.) "Don't want to fill out a form" is not a protected class.
posted by meowzilla at 11:31 AM on November 11, 2010 [8 favorites]

Is something compelling you to answer the survey truthfully?

No - I ended up filling it out last year, and I don't think I provided truthful information.

The employer is penalized somewhat if they don't get enough responses, and non-responses get counted as if the person commuted by themself during prime-time, so I understand why they want to encourage participation, but just doesn't seem like something that really needs to be mandatory.
posted by PandaMcBoof at 11:38 AM on November 11, 2010

Can I ask why this is a big deal for you? I understand not caring, or worrying that your privacy will be eroded, but is there something about your truthful responses that you think needs to be hidden?

Yeah, fight the power and all, but absent any other information I wonder why it would be worth your time.
posted by Madamina at 11:43 AM on November 11, 2010 [3 favorites]

We have to fill out a similar survey at my job in Portland, Oregon. The one that we fill out is used by the region's public transit system (TriMet) to figure out how many people are using their system for commuting as well as how deeply to subsidize transit passes for employees. My understanding of the survey is that for every non-response they just assume that the person rides transit all the time, and thus the transit system gets shitty data and your company has to pay more for non-existent riders.

If the survey that you have to fill out is anything like the one that we have to fill out I have no idea why you wouldn't take the time to. If you don't ever ride transit it takes under a minute, if you do take transit it takes less than five minutes and it helps make transit suck less and cheaper.

What's the big deal?
posted by togdon at 12:31 PM on November 11, 2010 [3 favorites]

So if you don't want to give the surveyors that information, why not just lie? This is not the hill you want to die on.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:38 PM on November 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Why are you asking about whether it can be mandatory if your employer hasn't made it mandatory? That said, I agree with everyone else who said to just fill it out because it's not a big deal.
posted by J. Wilson at 2:08 PM on November 11, 2010

Your employer is probably just trying to comply with SCAQMD Rule 2202 for Employee Ridesharing, which applies to "any employer who employs 250 or more employees on a full or part-time basis at a worksite for a consecutive six month period calculated as a monthly average, except as provided in subdivision (m) of this Rule."

It is most likely mandatory for the employer to comply. It is highly unlikely that it is legally mandatory for you personally, although your employer may feel otherwise (as CA is an "at will" state) and there would be little you could do about that.
posted by FuzzyVerde at 2:21 PM on November 11, 2010

Wait, so your employer is penalized if not enough employees fill out the survey, but you think that employees should not be penalized for not filling out the same survey. Please tell me exactly how you think an employer should handle that situation.

What if it was financial? Less than 80% participation and the company is fined $10k? Sure, don't fill it out, but when everyone gets no holiday bonus because some people didn't want to fill out surveys they found to personally be useless, it's your own fault.

Who is penalizing your employer? And who gave them the power to do so? I'm assuming some governmental agency, and thus I'm assuming it was you the people. Seems like your issue isn't with your employer, but rather with the burden placed on your employer by some local form of government.

Why don't you just fill out the survey 100 times and write the same answers each time through so that way you've totally skewed the survey and maybe they'll stop sending them out?

As others have mentioned, if you don't like what your boss is telling you to do (for whatever personal reasons you have), you're free to not do what is asked of you. They're also free to stop paying you just as you are free to go find another job. Though as I mentioned, if this is as the result of some local government action, your new job may need to be in a different state or at a company that isn't subject to this survey requirement.
posted by Brian Puccio at 3:01 PM on November 11, 2010

Isn't this like asking "Can my employer make me wash windows?"

The answer is No, your employer can't make you do anything.

But your employer can fire you for refusing to follow directions.
posted by General Tonic at 6:59 AM on November 12, 2010

Follow-up - I spoke to our employee relations director, and she assured me that it's not mandatory for employees to take it (despite the over the top language and out and out exaggeration employed by the folks who administer the survey). She agreed that insubordination would be a different problem, but offered to speak to my boss and / or the transportation director on my behalf. So in the end, I didn't fill it out.
posted by PandaMcBoof at 2:36 PM on December 16, 2010

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