Can an employer cut an employee’s hours because they came back from a vacation that the company was well aware of and agreed to at the time of hire?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Can an employer cut an employee’s hours because they came back from a vacation that the company was well aware of and agreed to at the time of hire?

My daughter was hired as a full-time employee about 6 months ago at $40/week. Can her employer cut her time to 8 hours a week so they can hire someone else? She is a good employee, takes her job seriously, she comes in on time, handles her work load accordingly, willing to do overtime and weekend when asked and is very pleasant to the customers. She had a great relationship with the last manager, which left the company in mid, June 2018. They said that because she took a 1 week vacation which they were well aware of at time of hire and was okayed for the vacation and got sick with a doctor’s note that it created a hardship for the business. Do they have grounds to cut her hours so drastically from 40 to 8 hours a week? I feel it was a decision that was made on a personal level with the new manager than a professional business level. If the employer was well aware that they were hiring some with a planned vacation and they had the exact date, why would they not plan to have someone cover her shift? It sounds like bad management scheduling to me. One day, she got sick and had to be taken to the hospital and was given a doctor’s note to be off for 3 days. She missed day that day, and was told by the currently manager not to come in since she was given the doctor’s note, even after my daughter insisted that she can come in the rest of the week. She gets back and then was told her hours are cut and she also found out that the day after she got sick, an ad was put out for her position. Is there grounds for discrimination here? What advise can you give her?

Asked on August 14, 2018 under Employment Labor Law, California


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Unless your daughter has protection against this action under the terms of an employment contract or union agreement, it is legal. As an "at will worker" her boss can set the conditions of employment much as they see fit (absent some form of legally actionable discrimination). This means that her hours can be reduced (or her employment terminated) for any reason or no reason at all, with or without notice. At this point, she may just want to look for work elsewhere.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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