Can my employer cut my hours because of my availability and give them to someone with less seniority than me?

UPDATED: Apr 24, 2012

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Can my employer cut my hours because of my availability and give them to someone with less seniority than me?

Asked on April 24, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Washington


Kenneth Berger / Kenneth A. Berger, Attorney at Law

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Availability is usually a basis for an employer hiring, firing, or cutting hours.

The concept of seniority needs to be viewed based on whether you have some contractual rights to seniority (such as based on a union contract or employment contract) or whether you just happened to work at a job longer that someone else. 

In Washington, an employer can typically fire or cut hours without any reason, so long as it is not a prohibited reason by law; of course a union right or employment contract can give you more rights than basic Washington or Federal law in which case you might have a case to complain.

As always, my comments are only applicable to Washington State and are not a substitute for getting competent, local, and more comprehensive, legal help.


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

If you are not available when your employer needs or wants you to work, your employer could certainly cut your hours--your employer, not you, determines your hours, schedule, and shifts. You employer could also give your hours to someone with the availability it needs, even if that person has less seniority than you; indeed, if you are not available when the employer wants you, it could terminate you. There are some exeptions:

1) You have an employment contract setting your hours.

2) You are covered by a union or collective bargaining agreement which either sets your hours or protects you on the basis of seniority.

3) The stated reason (your availability) is not actually true, and you are over 40, and the reduction in your hours is actually discrimination against you because you are older than 40.

Apart from the above, however, the employer would seem to be able to do what you describe.

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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