Career Advice

Can Employer Schedule You Outside Your Availability?

One of the biggest complaints working people have is related to their work hours. Even if you are super-happy with your job, career path, pay, nearby parking spot, and great cafeteria food, it’s a major headache with the boss wants you to work hours that are inconvenient for you. And whether people readily admit it or not, about 60% of modern workers assume that the 9-to-5 template is going the way of the dinosaurs.

That’s when you might wonder, “Can an employer schedule you outside your availability?” Of course, there are numerous related questions and issues, so it’s essential to look at the topic from various perspectives.

To the most basic query, “Can an employer schedule you outside your availability?” the qualified response is, “Yes.” But there’s much more to the issue than that. Others focus on the law by asking, “Is it illegal to schedule an employee outside their availability?” That aspect is explored below, but it’s important to remember that most supervisors will do anything to prevent receiving a formal, legal complaint.

Consider the following points in order to gain a fuller understanding of the topic.

Can You Be Fired For Not Being Available?

The short response is, yes, you can be fired for that reason. But what if you constantly find yourself thinking, “My manager keeps scheduling me on days I can’t work.”? If so, there are three general ways to approach the dilemma. The initial thing to realize is that nearly all US-based workers operate under an “at will” agreement, which means their companies can let them go for almost any reason and schedule them to work at any reasonable time.

Note that there are exceptions for faith-based holidays, but other than that, you’re expected to work whenever your boss wants you to. What if you see a problem on the horizon and want to deal with it in advance? Be proactive by approaching the relevant supervisor and having a discussion.

Even if you are not fired for not being available, you may be afraid that the employer may punish you by taking you off the schedule completely. If that the case, this article “” will be helpful for you.

Related Article: Can An Employer Cut Your Hours To Make You Quit?

How Do I Talk To My Boss About My Availability?

Be honest about the situation and let the boss know why you can’t be at work at the times for which they scheduled you. If the company handbook or a collective (union) bargaining agreement is on your side, show the evidence as substantiation of your claim.

In most cases, supervisory team members will accommodate and adjust your schedule based on a legitimate request. Never worry about entertaining the query, “How do I talk to my boss about my availability?” because the solution is not complex; it’s just a matter of having the right information and being forthright with the supervisor.

If you ever think, “The manager is ignoring my availability,” step up and engage them with facts, being clear about your wishes and presenting concrete evidence. Most companies don’t want lawsuits or any kind of official complaints from their workers, particularly regarding religious discrimination. That’s why they nearly always set such differences as amicably as possible. For that reason, feel free to ask for time off around popular religious holidays and family-related faith-based events.

What About The Law?

Is it illegal to schedule an employee outside of their availability? In most cases, it’s not. Even if you were clear about your wishes during an in-person interview, none of the promises are legally enforceable unless they’re in writing, appear in an official company manual, or are part of an in-place collective bargaining agreement.

That’s why it’s imperative for workers to get a manager to sign off on such assurances before they commit to beginning a new job.

Why Do Supervisors Make Nonconventional Scheduling Requests?

In the digital, post-COVID era, there is good logic for creating non-standard schedules. The fact is that management teams can have all sorts of rational reasons to schedule you at asynchronous times. Everyone should expect to face the time-and-scheduling dilemma at least a few times each year.

The Final Question: “Do I Have To Work Outside Of My Availability?”

The answer to this question isn’t cut and dry. It’s a complex issue that relies on various factors, including local labor laws, the terms of your employment contract, and your company’s specific policies.

In most cases, employers hold the right to set work schedules as they deem necessary. But here’s the catch: if you have a written agreement or contract that outlines your availability, or if your employer has a track record of respecting your stated availability, you might have a legitimate reason to decline working outside these hours.

If you find yourself consistently scheduled outside your availability, try to to have a direct and clear conversation with your employer. Aim to reach a resolution that works for both parties. But what if your employer persists in scheduling you outside your availability, despite your objections? That’s when you might want to consider seeking advice from a labor attorney or your local labor board to understand your rights and potential courses of action.

One piece of advice that’s worth its weight in gold: always document your communications with your employer about your availability and any changes to your schedule. This documentation could be a game-changer if you ever need to pursue legal action down the line.


The next time you look at the upcoming week’s posted schedule and see your name listed where it shouldn’t be, you’ll probably return to the question, “Can an employer schedule you outside your availability?” This time, at least, you’ll be equipped with the fundamental facts. Instead of being in doubt and muttering, “Is the manager ignoring my availability?” you’ll know whether the company handbook or collective bargaining agreement allows it.

What’s the bottom line for hard-working individuals who wrestle with the availability question? Gather the facts about your own organization’s official policies and review any written documentation regarding promises a boss or HR person made to you. If and only if you are on solid ground, consider consulting an employment lawyer and seeing whether you can get a settlement.

But keep in mind that in the majority of situations, managers are free to schedule “at will” workers whenever it suits the organization’s needs. The simplest solution is to prepare a list of answers about scheduling before every job interview. Be clear and direct when hiring agents ask about your availability.

If you take that step and make an effort to prevent problems before they arise, you’ll be less likely to find yourself saying, “My manager keeps scheduling me on days I can’t work,” or “Do I have to work outside of my availability?” It’s much less of a hassle to prevent the problem than having to argue and negotiate potential differences with an employer.

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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