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Can My Boss Reduce My Work Hours With No Notice?

Nonexempt or at-will employees can legally have their hours cut or be put on furlough. However, in most situations, you must be told in advance that your hours will be reduced.

The amount of advance notice can change state by state or per job status. It can also depend on the issues the company is facing (such as closing down) and current economic trends.

Exceptions to Reduced Hours

Exempt employees have a set salary and they must receive their salary in full. Even if a company has them work fewer hours due to a lack of available work, exempt employees will still receive their full pay.

Union members or employees with contracts may also be exempt from a reduction in hours.

Your Rights Under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act

The WARN Act is a federal law that says you get at least 60 days' notice about cut hours. This law only applies to situations that cut employee hours by 50% or more, so losing one shift a week will not apply.

These rules also only apply to:

  • Companies with over 100 employees
  • Jobs that plan to reduce hours for six months or more

You can read the full employee guidebook on the WARN Act and your rights to receiving notice.

Your Rights to Unemployment or Stimulus

You may qualify for unemployment if your hours are greatly reduced or if you are laid off for a set time (or indefinitely).

There may also be federal stimulus packages or different unemployment rules during times of natural disaster, bad economy, or pandemics.

Defenses to Having Hours Cut

If reducing your hours violates your employee rights, you could have a wage and hour law case. The government could fine a company or make them pay penalty fees.

Any actions in direct violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) could result in a legal battle. The FLSA states you have the right to:

  • Fair wages
  • Back pay for unpaid hours worked

However, the FLSA does not have rules about giving prior notice.

You Should Always Get Some Kind of Warning of Reduced Hours

If you are not exempt from FLSA regulations and are an hourly employee, then yes, your hours can be reduced. But even a small company with less than 100 employees needs to give you some kind of statement about how the hours reduction will affect you.

In short, you likely cannot show up for work one day and be turned away due to reduced hours. You may be able to (at least) be paid for the time you discussed the reduced hours.

Generally, a company should tell you:

  • Who is affected
  • How many hours are being cut
  • How long the hours are reduced for
  • If there are changes in pay

Steps to Take If Your Hours Are Reduced Without Notice

You always have the right to be paid for hours you do work. If you need help proving the hours you worked or getting back payment from an employer, then an attorney consultation might be your next step.

To prepare for a case on wages or hour issues, you should:

  1. Gather all evidence, such as emails, timesheets, pay stubs, company policies, or letters.
  2. Talk with your manager or HR about the missing pay so you understand the details — but do not mention taking legal action
  3. Speak with an attorney during a free consultation
  4. Determine the next steps with your lawyer, such as a lawsuit or settling out of court

Next Steps

Contact a qualified employment attorney to make sure your rights are protected.

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