Barring contractual obligations or illegal practices, most employers can reduce your work hours to cut costs due to lack of work or for other reasons. Your rights and recourse depend on the circumstances surrounding the change. If your employer reduces your hours, you may be entitled to unemployment benefits, continuing health insurance or other assistance.
The Fair Labor Standards Act does not prevent employers from reducing your hours of work if you're an hourly employee. The FLSA also doesn't prevent your employer from reducing your hourly wage as long as the reduction doesn't make it below the legal minimum wage. Some restrictions apply to salaried employees. State laws and union or employment contracts specifying a regular work schedule may also protect you from reduced hours and pay reductions. Check with your state's labour department or your union representative if you believe your employer broke an employment contract.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enforces discrimination laws in the workplace. If your employer cuts your hours or takes any other action against you due to age, race, gender, colour, national origin, religion, disability or genetic information, contact the EEOC and your state's Attorney General regarding complaint procedures and possible recourse. The law also protects pregnant against discrimination.
Your employer cannot reduce your hours or otherwise punish you in retaliation for filing a complaint, reporting illegal or unsafe working conditions or for refusing to work in dangerous conditions. File complaints related to whistle-blower discrimination within 30 days of the incident with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Unemployment Benefits and Health Insurance
Depending on state laws, you may be eligible for unemployment benefits due to a reduction in hours. If your state does allow unemployment compensation for this, apply early as states calculate weekly benefit rates based on recent earnings. If you are no longer eligible for your company's group health insurance plan due to the reduction, you may continue to receive health care coverage under the plan if you pay the premiums. Contact your company's health insurance plan administrator about COBRA enrolment and continuing health coverage.
State and federal public assistance programs are available if you meet income eligibility requirements based on family size. You may qualify for medical coverage, food assistance, cash aid, employment training and help with child care costs. Find more information on program eligibility and apply for benefits at the Department of Human Services in your state.