Can an employer require his employees to clean and can he fire them if they don’t?

UPDATED: Jul 28, 2011

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Can an employer require his employees to clean and can he fire them if they don’t?

I work as a waitress at a restaurant that is owned by one person. Every year he closes for one week for vacation. On the day before he reopens, he makes everyone clean the whole restaurant. He implies that if you don’t clean, you can lose your job. He makes us use very strong chemicals and even though I wore long pants, rubber gloves and a mask, I still had chemical burns on my knees and elbows. Also, I felt a burning sensation on my finger and when I removed the glove, some of my skin was burned off. My boss made a joke and asked me if I needed a bandage.

Asked on July 28, 2011 Pennsylvania


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

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Yes, your employer can require you to do this. As an "at will" employer he can set the terms of employment, as well as hire and fire as he sees fit; as an at will employee you can choose to work for him or not. Unless there is an employment/union agreement prohibiting such action, this violates company policy, or this in some way involves workplace discrimination, your employer is violating no law. Further if you refuse to do this you can be termiated with or without notice.

Note: You are however entitled to be paid for this work.

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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