Career Advice

Can An Employer Cut Your Hours To Make You Quit?

When an employer reduces your hours, it can be stressful and put a strain on your finances. Even if they say it’s necessary, you still worry that you’re being pushed out. Can an employer cut your hours to make you quit? Possibly, but you do have options. If this is happening to you, you need to understand all of the laws and your rights when it comes to reduced hours and pay. That knowledge will give you power when it comes to negotiating with your employer or making the decision to leave.

At-Will Employment

Most employees in the United States private sector work “at will.” When you work at will, your boss can change your status at any time without a reason, as long as they aren’t violating any federal or state laws. This means that your employer can cut your hours or pay whenever they want to.

There are exceptions to at-will employment.

Job Contracts

A job contract protects you from getting your hours or pay cut. If your employer reduces your hours, fires you, puts you on furlough, or cuts your pay, it is a breach of contract.

Union Contracts

Having a union contract means that you have a collective bargaining agreement (CBA). It protects you from getting your hours or pay reduced. If your employer violates the CBA, there will be a review process to settle the dispute. If internal actions don’t resolve the issue, you can take legal action.

Related Article: Can an Employer Keep You Past Your Scheduled Time?

Fair Labor Standards Act

The FSLA is a federal law that sets standards for minimum wage as well as overtime pay. The minimum wage is the lowest hourly rate an employer can pay in the United States. Currently, it is set at $7.25. Your state may have a higher minimum wage in place. Companies in States with a higher minimum wage rate have to pay you the state’s required rate. The FSLA also entitles you to additional pay for every hour you work over 40 hours each week. This rate is 1.5 times your normal hourly rate.

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, there are two categories of employees:

• Non-Exempt Employees
All FSLA requirements apply to you if you are a non-exempt employee. Your employer can cut your hours or pay as long as they meet minimum wage standards.

• Exempt Employees
FSLA requirements do not apply to you if you work in commissioned sales, are a mechanic, are a recreational worker, or are a farmer. If you are one of these types of employees, you don’t have minimum wage or overtime protection.

You’re exempt from the minimum wage and overtime if you have an administrative, executive, or professional-skilled job. With these executive exemption occupations, you typically receive a salary, which is a set amount per week, regardless of how many hours you work. The FSLA ensures that you make at least $684 a week with these salary positions.

According to the Department of Labor, your employer can reduce your hours or wage in these salary positions if the change is permanent. Your employer can’t change your hours and wages weekly just to suit their needs, but they can make a one-time reduction. This new wage can’t go below $684 per week. In order to pay you less than that, they have to change your salary to an hourly wage.

Related Article: Can An Employer Change Your Schedule Last Minute?

The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act

The WARN Act requires all employers to give you a 60-day notice if the company is closing or doing mass layoffs. This federal law applies to all companies that employ 100 or more people. If you work for a company with this many employees, you’re guaranteed a 60-day notice before your job is terminated, which gives you time to begin searching for a new job.

State Laws

Along with federal laws, state laws may require your employer to give notice before cutting your hours. They may specify timelines for this notice. Not all states set a time frame for notices of hour reductions. Instead, they simply ask for a reasonable amount of time from the employer. If your hours were cut without notice, your employer may be violating your state’s laws.

Reducing Your Hours as Retaliation

While your employer can reduce your hours in many situations, they are not allowed to cut your hours or pay in retaliation for your actions. For example, you can’t get your hours cut due to medical leave. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows you to take a leave of absence for an illness or to take care of a family member. Your employer cannot legally fire you for this. They also cannot cut your hours or fire you for filing a workplace discrimination or worker’s compensation claim.

What to Do if Your Company is Trying to Make You Quit

When you find yourself asking, “Can an employer cut your hours to make you quit?” there are things you can do to help your situation.

Figure Out Why

If your employer has cut hours at work, talk directly to them. Ask for a performance review. This will open up a discussion that will help you assess the situation. If your employer is suddenly labeling you as underperforming, your job could be at risk of ending.

On the other hand, if this discussion reveals that your employer is simply reacting to budget cuts, you can ask about taking on additional duties or a new role in the company. Either way, this gives you some advance notice of what to expect later on. You’ll have time to look for a new job before you’re terminated or laid off.

Establish a Rapport with Your Employer

Acting like a victim can turn you into one; instead, establish a good rapport with your employer. Having frequent conversations with them makes it easier to be open and honest with each other. If they don’t seem to be forthcoming when discussing your performance, take the lead. This will give you back your power. Being positive rather than playing the victim will help influence the outcome of your talks.

Be Your Own Advocate

It’s possible that your employer doesn’t realize how valuable you are, especially if you work remotely. Ask to have a meeting with your employer and make a list of your duties before the meeting that you can present to them. Include everything you do that’s in your job description, along with anything extra that you do. Pointing out your best qualities may cause them to rethink their decision to push you out. If nothing else, you have a good start when it comes to listing your qualities in a resume for a new job.

Take Notes

After having these important discussions with your employer, document all of the details of the meeting. This is especially important if you suspect any illegal actions on their part. Keep all emails too. If you think you’re being forced to quit due to discrimination, this information is valuable when seeking a legal claim.

Severance Pay

There may come a point in time when you realized “my job only scheduled me one day a week” and your hours and pay have been cut to the extent that you feel you have no other option but to resign. When this day arrives, think carefully about your next move. If it reaches a point where your employer offers severance pay in exchange for you leaving, don’t be quick to say no. Even though it may seem better to continue working until you can find a new job, the compensation severance pay provides may work to your advantage. If the amount is enough to cover your expenses, you’ll have enough free time to look for a position that suits you and your skills. Keep in mind that they may not offer severance pay later on.

Most importantly, keep your situation private. Badmouthing your boss to all of your co-workers may make you feel better at this moment, but you’ll be jeopardizing any chance of using your employer as a reference for future jobs.

In Conclusion

Can an employer cut your hours to make you quit? Possibly, if they are careful about it and stay within all of the state and federal laws. This may not be the answer you wanted, but there are options. If you suspect illegal moves on their part, you can take legal action. You can also take advantage of this opportunity to open up communication between you and your boss in order to work things out for all concerned. If nothing else, this may be the push you need to go in search of a job that’ll make you happy.

About Author

Founder of With over 20 years of experience in HR and various roles in corporate world, Jenny shares tips and advice to help professionals advance in their careers. Her blog is a go-to resource for anyone looking to improve their skills, land their dream job, or make a career change.

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