Can an employer require staff to do construction work while insurance pays them their salary?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Can an employer require staff to do construction work while insurance pays them their salary?

The retail business burned down and insurance is covering employees full pay for 60 days. Can the employer require only the younger guys who were retail cashiers, sales clerks and retail managers to work doing clean up and construction during that 60 day period, even though that’s not what their job was? Also, not have the women or older staff required to do anything.

Asked on January 2, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, Tennessee


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

1) The employer decides what an employee's job is, not the employee. So if the employer says that your job, for the next 2 months, is to clean and renovate, you clean and renovate. The only exception would be if you had a written employment contract defining your job--then you only have to do what the contract says.
2) Unless it's specifically prohibited discrimination (see below), employees do not need to treat employees alike or fairly. Some may be asked to do extra work but not others.
3) The law prohibits discrimination against older employers, but not younger. So while you could not make employees over 40 do extra work without requiring it of younger employees, you could have younger staff do the clean up and reconstruction without making the older staff do it.

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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