Can we require an employee to change shifts?

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

Q. Our executive director wants to change an employee’s shift. The employee does not want the change. Can we force it? — T., California

A. Assuming the employee is not represented by a union, your executive director can change the employee’s work shift for any reason or no reason at all, provided that the reason is not unlawful.

The questions to ask: Is the desire to change the shift motivated by an improper reason, such as to retaliate against the employee for engaging in protected activity, or to push the employee to the door because he has a disability, is old, or for some other protected characteristic? If so, insisting on the change could put the organization at risk of litigation.

If the motives are pure, the director needs to be prepared to live with the consequences, which could include a disgruntled employee or one that quickly quits. Pre­­sum­­ably the director has a good business reason for the change. In that case, the employee must accept the change or leave the company.

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