Can an employer deny my right to change my hours if the employee handbook states we can?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Can an employer deny my right to change my hours if the employee handbook states we can?

I have asked several times if I may change the hours that I currently work to an
earlier schedule. We have several employees that have begun working at our
company after my hired date and have been able to change their hours without any
issues. Our employee handbook also states that we may be able to change our
schedules as long as our work day does not begin after 9a.m. and our 40hrs are
worked. I just want to know if I should pursue the hour change.

Asked on July 7, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Missouri


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

The key legal issue is whether the employee handbook constitutes a binding contract or not. It *may* form a binding contract, but be warned: most handbooks do not. To form an enforceable contract:
1) The terms must be clear and unequivocal; and
2) There must be NO caveats, restrictions, or limitations on forming a contract. If there is any language like or to the effect that--
"all employment is employment at will"
"polices subject to change at any time"
"nothing in this handbook forms a guaranty [or contract] of employment"
--then the handbook is not binding and enforceable.
If it is binding and enforceable, then you may legally be able to enforce the policy. But leads to the practical concern: to enforce it against your company, if they will not voluntarily do what it says, you'd have to sue your employer, which is a very drastic move; you'd need to consider carefully whether you want to go down that route.

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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