How much advance notice must be given to mandate employees to do unscheduled hours?

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How much advance notice must be given to mandate employees to do unscheduled hours?

My employer likes to mandate employees to work hours outside their scheduled shifts to fill gaps that were they didn’t have others scheduled or other employees have called in. They call us and mandate with very little to no notice at all. No option to refuse hours for any reason. We are not paid to be on call and receive no additional compensation for our inconvenience. Is this a legal practice?

Asked on September 3, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Wisconsin

Answers:

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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

First of all, as to the last minute schedule shifts, an "at will" employer has a great deal of discretion in mandating the terms and conditions of employment. Basically, it can hire/fire, promote/demote and increase/decrease salary/hours as it deems fit, with or without notice. An employee in turn can choose to work (or continue to work) for an employer or not. So basically unless you have an employment/union agreement to the contrary, or this action violates existing company policy, or is the result of actionable discrimination, your employer has violated no laws. 

As for on-call compensation, if an employee must be on-call outside of the work place, then they may have to be paid pay for those hours. If the employee has constraints placed on them such that they have little/no control of such time (i.e. they cannot use for their own enjoyment/benefit) then that employee should be paid. Generally, the more restrictions that are on an employee, the more likely it is that they should be paid.

Without more details, it's hard to say. You may want to contact your state's department of labor for further information.


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