Is it legal for a full-time employee to have their hours cut to eliminate their benefits?

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Is it legal for a full-time employee to have their hours cut to eliminate their benefits?

My mother-in-law is a lawful permanent resident originally from Mexico. She has been working as a janitor at Kimco Services for 24 years. She currently makes $8.50/hr despite her years of dedication to the company. She is a stand-up employee who rarely ever takes a sick day. She performs her janitorial duties, the duties of the mopper a separate position, and the duties of a supervisor without the job titles or pay raises. They have recently cut her hours in order to take away her paid vacation time and paid holidays. She has pleaded for more hours in able to make ends meet but it has been all for naught. She is 59 years old, and, at this age, it would be difficult for her to start over at a new job. She has given decades of loyalty and commitment to this company, and I feel that they are taking advantage of her. Is what they are doing illegal, and is there anything that we can do?

Asked on July 10, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Illinois

Answers:

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

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Unfortunately, your mother-in-law's treatment is legal unless it constitutes some form of legally actionable discrimination (which it does not appear to), or violates the terms of a union/collective bargaining agreement or employment contract. The fact is that most work relationships are "at will". This means that a company can set the conditions of employment much as it sees fit. This includes reducing worker hours and/or benefits.


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