Do I have the legal right to refuse to work for with an uncertified handyman at the building I am the manager for?

I have been the manager of an apartment building for about 20 years now. As of lately the building owner is using an uncertified handyman to do jobs with plumbing, electrical, and even roofing. All of which he does not have the qualifications for. He is an illegal alien that has been deported a couple times, the most recent of them being last year. He also has a felony on top of that and is hiding from ICE. His wife and family live in the building and they are all covering for him. The problem is that I am responsible for apartments and he also has full access to the apartments. The jobs he is doing are done incorrectly, and repeatedly left in worse conditions than before he has tried to ‘fix’ them. It has become very dangerous for the tenants in the building as well as unhealthy. The owner does not seem to care about the lack of regard to safety and health codes and will not hire a professional. I like my job but I am afraid to have retaliations against me if I refuse to work with this handyman or report any of the violations being committed. What can I do to make sure I don’t lose my job?

Asked on May 17, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, California


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

Basically, unless you have protection in this situation under the terms of a union agreement or employment contract, you are an "at will" worker. This means that your comapny can set the conditions of the workplace much as it sees fit (absent some for of legally actionable discrimination). Accordingly, you can be terminated for any reason or no reason at all. So while you can refuse to work with this individual, you can be fired for doing so.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

You can't do anything to protect your job unless you have a written employment contract preventing you from being terminated for this reason. Otherwise, without such a contract, you are an "employee at will" and may be terminated at any time, for any reason--including not working with the handyman the owner wants you to use. Without a contract, there are essentially no job protections.

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