What legal recourse can be taken for an employer witholding hours without termination of employment?

I have been employed full-time by a small business for approximately 4 months. About 6 weeks ago, the owner/supervisor began minimizing my hours (down to 6-10 hrs/wk) due to 2employees returning from leave. Then 3-4 weeks ago, my employer began deliberately withholding hours. I have I have not received any hours for a month.  Also, I have a clean work record – no history disciplinary action. Is there any legal recourse available to me (unemployment?) without my employment being terminated? I’d hate to give in to these bullying tactics by resigning from a job that I actually truly enjoy.

Asked on March 5, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Unfortunately, unless--

1) you have an employement contract, specifying minimum wages or hours, or something like that; or

2) you are being discriminated against in your treatment because of a protected characteristics (e.g. race, sex, religion, disability status, or age over 40)

--your employer has an absolute right to reduce or "withhold" hours--or to suspend or terminate you entirely. Without a contract, you are an employee at will, and that gives the employee essentially complete discretion as to the hours, terms, conditions, compensation, etc., as well as to who works and who doesn't.

If you are not getting any hours, you may be constructively (or effectively) terminated and may be eligible for unemployment. You should probably try to submit a claim on that basis.

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