Can my employer legally reduce my hours while hiring a new employee at the same time?

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Can my employer legally reduce my hours while hiring a new employee at the same time?

I am 46 years old and my employer informed me last Tuesday that they are rehiring a previous employee that is more experienced and will be taking on some of the responsibilities I currently do. As a result they are going to reduce my hours in half changing my status from full-time employment to part-time employment. I have worked there almost 4 years and I have no prior employment issues; I have have been led to believe I am doing a fine job. I would also like to mention that over the past couple years our staff has been reduced and I have taken on duties from others but wasn’t compensated.

Asked on August 28, 2011 Illinois

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

As a general matter, an employer is free to set hours, shifts, compensation, etc. of its staff, and is free to reduce person A's hours (or even terminate him) while hiring person B. The exceptions would be if you can:

1) Show that the action was illegal discrimination against you on the basis of age over 40, race, religion, sex, or disability. However, the protected characteristic (e.g. age over 40) must be the cause of the action--so it's is ok, for example, to reduce the hours of a 46-year old if there is a good, nondiscriminatory reason, such as to "make room" to hire someone who is more experienced.

2) Show that the action is retaliation for having used a protected benefit (e.g. FMLA leave) or filed a protected claim (e.g. worker's compensation, discrimination, overtime).

3) Show that the action violates an employment agreement.

Apart from the above, the employer may reduce your hours, even if you always pitched in to help out, and hire a new person at the same time,  unfortunately.


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