• David Manes

What happens if my Employer reduces my hours?

There are many situations where an individual has been working full-time for an employer for years and then suddenly has his/her hours reduced to part-time. The individual is left standing with many questions. Can my employer do that? What legal recourse do I have? Can I file for unemployment benefits (“UC Benefits”)?

Can an employer reduce an employee’s hours from full-time to part-time?

In Pennsylvania, the simple answer is yes. Pennsylvania is an “at-will” employment state which means, absent an employment contract or collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”), an employer can reduce an employee’s hours from full-time to part-time at any time during the employee’s employment. For example, an individual can be employed for 10 years at 40 hours a week. One day the employer could go to the individual and reduce his/her hours to 25 hours a week. In Pennsylvania, most of the time this is legal.

However, there are certain circumstances where a reduction in hours could be unlawful. If the individual and the employer have signed an employment contract guaranteeing full-time work for 20 years, the employer cannot reduce the individual’s hours unless he/she has worked for at least 21 years. The employer would be in breach of contract and the individual could sue. If the individual is part of a union and both the union and employer have agreed to a CBA, the employer must obey that CBA. If the CBA says the individual cannot have his/her hours reduced to less than 30 hours a week, the employer cannot reduce the individuals hours to less than 30 hours a week. If the employer does, the union will step in to fight for the individual’s rights.

Another circumstance where a reduction in hours could be unlawful is if the employer’s reason for reducing the individual’s hours is discriminatory. If the employer is reducing an individual’s hours because of that person’s sex, race, disability, age, etc., then the employer could be facing an employment discrimination lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) or the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”).

What legal recourse is there?

Since Pennsylvania is an “at-will” employment state, there isn’t much legal recourse. There is only legal recourse available if: (1) the employer breached an employment contract, (2) the employer breached a CBA or (3) the employer’s reason for reducing the individual’s hours was discriminatory.

If an employer has breached an employment contract, the individual can sue for breach of contract. If an employer has violated a CBA, the union will step in to fight for the individual’s rights. If an employer’s reason for reducing hours was discriminatory, the individual may be able to bring an employment discrimination lawsuit under the ADA, Title VII or ADEA

Can I collect UC Benefits?

If an individual’s hours were reduced through no fault of their own, he/she may be eligible for partial UC Benefits. The key is that the employer must have reduced the individual’s hours. The individual can have nothing to do with the reduction in hours. For example, if the individual asked to have his/her hours reduced, UC Benefits will likely not be granted. However, if an employer is reducing hours due to lack of work, UC Benefits may be granted.

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