Can My Employer Change My Schedule Last Minute?

Change Schedule Last Minute
5
min read
March 2, 2022

Your work schedule, in large part, dictates the rest of your schedule. For example, working parents need advance notice of their work shifts in a given workweek so they can arrange childcare. Workers who rely on public transportation need to know their scheduled hours of work so they can coordinate their travel and ensure they make it to work on time.


Having a reliable schedule—where you know when you’re expected to be at work and for how long—is important. But last-minute schedule changes can throw a wrench in your plans—and leave you scrambling to change the rest of your schedule to accommodate your new work hours.


But the question is—what are the scheduling laws around these last-minute changes? Can your employers make changes to your work schedule without prior notice (including at the very last minute)—or do they need to give you advance notice that they’re shifting your hours?

Can an employer change an employee’s schedule or work hours at the last minute?

The best way to look at the issue is to break it down into two parts.


First—can your employer change your schedule? In most cases, yes.


Federal employment laws—most notably the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)—allow for a number of employer changes, including changing the employee’s schedule. According to the Department of Labor, “an employer may change an employee’s work hours without giving prior notice or obtaining the employee’s consent (unless otherwise subject to a prior agreement between the employer and employee or the employee’s representative).”


That means unless you have an employment contract or collective bargaining agreement in place that explicitly states your employer cannot make changes to your schedule, they can switch your work shifts, change your work hours, or make other scheduling changes at will.

But the second part of the equation—can your employer change your schedule last-minute


It depends.


Some states have predictive scheduling laws that require the employer to give the employee advance notice of any schedule changes. For example, in New York City, employers have to give their employees at least 72 hours advance notice of any changes to their schedule. In Oregon, that increases to 14 days. And in San Francisco, if you change an employee’s schedule with less than seven days notice, you’ll need to increase your employee’s regular rate of pay for the rescheduled shifts.


But there are also plenty of states that don’t have predictive scheduling laws in place, and if you live in one of those states, from a legal standpoint, your employer has the right to change your schedule whenever they want to—including at the last minute.


Here’s a look at places with a Fair Workweek law in place.

Cities and States with Predictive Scheduling Laws
Municipality Businesses Affected Key Employee Rights Under the Law
San Francisco, CA Chains with at least 40 stores worldwide and 20 local employees Right of first refusal for additional hours or shifts
Good faith estimate of schedule on hiring
Schedule provided 14 days in advance
Employees retained for 90 days if the company is bought
Emeryville, CA Retail or fast food companies with at least 56 employees worldwide and 20 local employees Right of first refusal for additional hours
Schedule provided 14 days in advance
Good faith estimate of schedule in writing upon hiring
Time and a half pay for any shifts less than 11 hours apart
Right to decline last minute shifts
New York City, NY Retail stores with at least 20 workers in NYC Schedule provided at least 72 hours in advance
Right to refuse last minute shift
No on-call shifts
Seattle, WA Retail and restaurants with at least 500 employees worldwide Good faith estimate of schedule and on-call requirements upon hiring
Schedule provided 14 days in advance
Right to refuse additional shifts not on original schedule
Time and a half pay for any shifts less than 10 hours apart
Special pay for schedule changes
Chicago, IL Companies with at least 100 employees globally in the following industries:
Building Services
Healthcare
Hotels
Manufacturing
Restaurants
Retail
Warehouse Services
With employees who earn less than or equal to $26/hour or earn less than or equal to $50,000/year
Schedule provided 10 days in advance
Right to decline additional shifts
Predictability pay for last minute shift changes
Can decline shifts less than 10 hours apart
Philadelphia, PA Service, retail, and hospitality companies with at least 250 employees worldwide and 30 or more locations worldwide Schedule provided 10 days in advance
Predictability pay for last minute shift changes
Right to refuse additional shifts
$40 payment for shifts less than 9 hours apart
Oregon (statewide) Retail, hospitality, and food services companies with at least 500 employees worldwide Schedule provided 14 days in advance
Time and a half pay for shifts less than 10 hours apart
Predictability pay for last minute shift changes
Good faith estimate of hours and on-call requirements upon hiring

In fact, a few states have passed laws preventing local governments from passing predictive work scheduling laws. Those states are:

When can your employer not change your schedule?

That being said, there are certain instances where your employer legally can’t change your schedule—last-minute or otherwise.


Some of the situations where employers are unauthorized to change your schedule include:


What to do if your employer keeps changing your schedule last minute

As mentioned, in many situations, your employer has the right to change your schedule at the last minute. But if your work schedule is consistently getting changed without prior notice—and it’s wreaking havoc on your life schedule—there are steps you can take to mitigate the issue.


Stay informed about your rights surrounding last-minute scheduling changes

Last-minute scheduling changes can throw a wrench in your plans—and the truth of the matter is, when it comes to scheduling changes, employers often have the power to make changes at will. 


But as an employee, it’s important to stay informed of your rights. Do the research on your state’s labor laws, figure out how and when your employer can (and can’t) change your schedule, and make sure that any last-minute scheduling changes your employer throws your way are in accordance with those laws. 

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