Can an employer make you work more hours than written in the work contract?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Can an employer make you work more hours than written in the work contract?

I am a General Manager for a store in North Dakota. When I took the job it was
with the understanding that I work 48 hours a week. I have an annual salary that
is divided by 26 for an equal paycheck every two weeks.

However, during the holiday season, I am given a mandatory schedule to follow
that has me working 60 or more hours a week without any additional pay. Last
holiday season, I followed this schedule because I was already short on staff and
it needed to be done for the store. However, this year, I have more than enough
staff. Do I have to follow this mandatory schedule that has an additional 12 plus
hours, or am I legally only required to work the 48 hours a week that I work the
rest of the year?

Asked on November 30, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, North Dakota


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

IF you have a written contract for a definite period of time (e.g. a one-year, two-year, etc. period) which has not yet expired and which defines how many hours you work, that is enforceable; during the duration of that contract, you cannot be made to work more hours than you agreed to in it.
But only such an unexpired written contract for a defined period restricts your employer's right to control the terms, including the hours worked, of your job. If you don't have such a contract, then it does not matter what your understanding is--a noncontractual understanding is unenforceable. And a written schedule given you by your employer does not prevent the employer from adding to or changing that schedule, unless, again, the schedule is incorporated into a written employment contract. Without an enforceable written contract limiting or setting your hours, your hours are whatever the employer says they are.

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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