Can my employer legally reduce my hours while hiring a new employee at the same time?

UPDATED: Aug 28, 2011

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Can my employer legally reduce my hours while hiring a new employee at the same time?

I am 46 years old and my employer informed me last Tuesday that they are rehiring a previous employee that is more experienced and will be taking on some of the responsibilities I currently do. As a result they are going to reduce my hours in half changing my status from full-time employment to part-time employment. I have worked there almost 4 years and I have no prior employment issues; I have have been led to believe I am doing a fine job. I would also like to mention that over the past couple years our staff has been reduced and I have taken on duties from others but wasn’t compensated.

Asked on August 28, 2011 Illinois


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

As a general matter, an employer is free to set hours, shifts, compensation, etc. of its staff, and is free to reduce person A's hours (or even terminate him) while hiring person B. The exceptions would be if you can:

1) Show that the action was illegal discrimination against you on the basis of age over 40, race, religion, sex, or disability. However, the protected characteristic (e.g. age over 40) must be the cause of the action--so it's is ok, for example, to reduce the hours of a 46-year old if there is a good, nondiscriminatory reason, such as to "make room" to hire someone who is more experienced.

2) Show that the action is retaliation for having used a protected benefit (e.g. FMLA leave) or filed a protected claim (e.g. worker's compensation, discrimination, overtime).

3) Show that the action violates an employment agreement.

Apart from the above, the employer may reduce your hours, even if you always pitched in to help out, and hire a new person at the same time,  unfortunately.

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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