Can I Be Forced to Change Hours?


  • Career Columnist / Author
    Specializes in Tele, ICU, Staff Development. Has 30 years experience.

Dear Nurse Beth,

I'm a healthcare worker MedTech. I've been on the job 10 years. This is what's going on, they're harassing me. I was hired to work midnight to 8 am, now they want me to come in 11 to 7 am. All due to this new supervisor. My husband is with the union, he's a Chief Delicate. I work another job that's why I was hired for that time. Can they dismiss me?

Dear Harassed,

You do not say how they are harassing you, but if you are being harassed, you need to see your union representative or Human Resources for help, with specific examples of the harassment.

It can be very upsetting to have your work hours or shift changed, but according to the Department of Labor, "an employer may change an employee's work hours without giving prior notice or obtaining the employee's consent ". If they are eliminating the midnight to eight am shift in favor of the new eleven pm to seven am shift, there is not much you can do. If they are keeping both shifts, see if you can trade with a co-worker to keep your preferred hours.

If you are asking if they can dismiss you for refusing to change hours, yes, they can. Most states are at-will employment, meaning you can be terminated with or without cause and with or without notice.

In an at-will work arrangement, employers do not need a reason to fire you. At-will laws protect the employer, not the employee.

The legal exception to at-will employment is when the employee has a contractual agreement with the employer. Usually, this takes the form of a union contract.

So, unfortunately, the law is on the side of the employer, meaning your hours can be changed and you can be dismissed without the employer breaking the law.

Your employer does have to follow their own policies when it comes to termination, as well as the union contract which likely speaks to seniority when new shifts are created.

You say your husband belongs to the union as a Chief Delicate, I'm thinking that's an autocorrect? You would have to belong to the union yourself for union help unless it's an open shop in a right-to-work state.

Best wishes,

Nurse Beth

Author, "Your Last Nursing Class: How to Land Your First Nursing Job"...and your next!



38,333 Posts

I once worked for an employer that not only did a complete shift overhaul, changing days worked as well as hours, they picked and chose which employees were going to be asked to stay. Many were just plain laid off. You can not imagine how many people made childcare or sick family member care arrangements when they took the job, only to have the rug pulled out from under them after a few months on the job. That was when I knew for certain that the employer always holds all the cards.

kbrn2002, ADN, RN

3,762 Posts

Specializes in Geriatrics, Dialysis. Has 21 years experience.

Short answer is yes. While you can't be "forced" to change hours, you certainly can be given the option of changing hours or leaving their employ. Most employers hire based on FTE, not specific hours of employment. So while you can have a job where you are guaranteed to be scheduled x number of hours a week there is generally no contracted requirement for the employer to provide those hours based on a specific schedule. Even in a union facility I doubt if there is an employment agreement that specifies an employee's schedule can't be changed, it's not an unheard of clause but it is rare.