Predictability in the workplace has its advantages. Knowing your work schedule ahead of time lets you balance and organize your professional and personal lives. If your employer suddenly changes your schedule without notifying you, however, it can throw a wrench in your plans. Despite the inconvenience, your employer has the right to modify your schedule without informing you unless your contract or agreement states otherwise.
The Fair Labor Standards Act does not regulate matters relating to employee scheduling, except in child labor situations. Therefore, under federal law, your employer can change your schedule without telling you. In all states that adopt at-will employment laws, employers can usually change employees’ work schedule without notifying them. They also have the right to terminate your employment at any time for any reason. As of August 2013, Montana is the only state with laws that protect certain employees from being fired without good cause. Still, even in Montana, employers can change employees’ schedules without notice.
An exception applies if a collective bargaining agreement or employment contract says your employer must tell you about the change in your schedule. In addition, the state might have a “show up pay” or “reporting pay” law. In this case, your employer must pay you for the lost time if you arrived to work and your total hours were reduced and different from what was originally scheduled and known the day before. Also, if you take leave under the Family Medical Leave Act, the act protects your job duties, work schedule and place of work. Your employer cannot change your hours or alter the conditions of your employment when you return.
Most states require that employers give employees advance notice of changes in their pay rates, salaries or the hours their salaries cover. Though the rules usually don't specify how much notice an employer should give, employers should try to give as much notice as possible. For example, suppose your employer changes your pay status from hourly to salary or salary to hourly. The state may approve of this practice, provided your employer tells you before you start the work.
If your employer can change your work schedule without telling you, it can also discipline you for refusing to work according to the new schedule. It cannot, however, change your work hours as a way of retaliating against you because you exercised your employment rights, such as filing a discrimination or harassment complaint.
- U.S. Department of Labor: Questions and Answers About the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
- Texas Workforce Commission: Work Schedules
- Nolo: Employment in Montana
- Nolo: Employment At Will: What Does It Mean?
- Society for Human Resource Management: Working Conditions: Changes
- National Federation of Independent Business: How to Cut Hours Without Causing a Lawsuit
- Nolo: How to Handle Discrimination and Harassment Complaints
Grace Ferguson has been writing professionally since 2009. With 10 years of experience in employee benefits and payroll administration, Ferguson has written extensively on topics relating to employment and finance. A research writer as well, she has been published in The Sage Encyclopedia and Mission Bell Media.