If I accepted new employment under the condition that it would always be full-time but I was only given 14-25 hours of work each week, is there anything I can do?

UPDATED: May 31, 2012

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If I accepted new employment under the condition that it would always be full-time but I was only given 14-25 hours of work each week, is there anything I can do?

I had a full-time job and left it because I found what seemed like a better opportunity with another company. In my initial interview with this new company, I was told that the job would always be full-time. However, after 5 weeks of working there I have never been given more than 25 hours of work and the past 2 weeks have only been 14 hours each. Because of this, I am having trouble keeping up with my expenses. Is there anything I can do about this?

Asked on May 31, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Washington


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

You may have legal claim against the employer. Normally, an employer is free to modify, change, or reduce hours at will, so long as there is no employment contract specifying hours. However, if the following conditions are met, you may be able to enforce their promise to you under the doctrine of "promissory estoppel":

1) To take this job, you had to do something significant to your detriment, like leaving an existing job.

2) The employer knew or reasonably should have known you'd have to do that thing to your detriment.

3) Knowing you'd have to do that thing to your detriment, the employer nonetheless made you the job offer, to get you to leave your existing job.

4) It was reasonable for you to rely on the promise the employer made.

5) Acting in reasonable reliance, you did in fact leave your other job.

If all those elements are present, you may have a viable claim; if you think are or may be present, you should consult with an attorney to discuss the matter in greater detail. Good luck.

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