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Can an Employer Change My Job Description?

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I get asked quite often if it's acceptable for an employer to change a job description after a person has been hired. In many cases, employers do have the right to change job descriptions to meet the needs of their organization. In most states, employees are considered to be hired at will meaning that their employment is voluntary and they can quit when they want. It also means that their employer can change their job or lay them off as they see fit. However, state laws do vary so check with your state department of labor for information on the law in your location.

Employees Covered By a Contract

An important exception covers employees who are governed by an employment contract or a collective bargaining agreement which stipulates a specific set of work roles or conditions. Many union contracts state very explicitly what duties are associated with various positions. A union plumber can't be expected to paint the bathroom where she is installing fixtures, for example. In another example, if you are covered by an employment contract that specifies your job duties your employer cannot change them without your agreement.

Employee Protections Against Job Changes

Employees are protected from changes in their job description that can be construed as retaliation by an employer in response to a worker exercising an employment right. For example, a whistleblower may have recourse if their job was changed after reporting a legal violation by their employer.

Changes by employers in the number of hours worked, schedule, location or responsibilities to preclude the taking of a leave guaranteed under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) are also prohibited. Employers cannot transfer staff to another job in order to discourage an employee from taking a leave. In addition, workers are guaranteed access to a substantially equivalent job upon their return to the workplace after completing a leave.

Collecting Unemployment if You Quit Because of a Job Change

I'm also asked whether you can collect unemployment if you quit your job because your duties were changed by your employer. In most cases, it's difficult to collect unemployment when you resign, unless you quit for good cause. Here's information on eligibility for unemployment if you quit your job.

Employer Best Practices

Aside from these legal considerations, best Human Resource Management practices suggest that employers should seek employee agreement before making major changes in work roles and should redraft job descriptions to make the new role clear. Generally, morale and productivity are enhanced if workers approve their new job description.

If you are concerned about your job responsibilities being changed, it's a good idea to see if you can discuss the situation with your manager or your company's Human Resources department to see if there is a way you can work out a solution that is agreeable to both yourself and your employer.

Related Articles: Reasons to Quit Your Job | Employee Rights

DISCLAIMER: The information in this directory is from United States and individual State government resources, from private parties, and from some non-U.S. governmental resources. I presume the governmental information, from government web sites, is correct, although I recommend you seek legal assistance if interpretation of a law is a problem. Most government websites do provide ways for you to ask questions and receive additional, personal assistance. Seek legal assistance, however, if your questions are inadequately answered, if you are uncertain, or if your situation is unusual. The private web sites, and the information linked to both on and from this site, are opinion and information. While I have made every effort to link accurate and complete information, I cannot guarantee it is correct. Please seek legal assistance, or assistance from State, Federal, or International governmental resources to make certain your legal interpretation and decisions are correct. This information is for guidance only.

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