Workers' rights when employers change their job duties
An employee's job duties or job title are subject to change in today's workplace. An employee's only recourse, absent legally actionable circumstances, is to either tolerate the situation or find another job with duties more aligned with their original position. Short of legal violations against the employee, an employer has the ultimate right to control and therefore change the workplace and employees' positions at will.
Change in job duties: Change in pay
An employer may change an employee's job duties without increasing the employee's salary. Employees may request an increase in salary, particularly if the job duties are significantly greater in terms of hours or responsibility. However, the employee does not have the legal right to an increase in salary, and the employer is within their right to turn down the request for a salary increase.
Change in title
An employer may change an employee's job title at any time without legal repercussions. A job title is not guaranteed to the employee, and an employer may alter or remove a title from an employee at any time as long as it is not for an illegal reason, such as retaliation against whistle-blowing or related to age, race, religion, gender or sexual preference.
There are certain limited circumstances in which a change in job duties can be actionable by an employee. If the change in job duties can be clearly shown to be caused by an illegal reason, such as protected status (i.e., age, race, gender, religion or sexual orientation), the employee may be able to show sufficient cause why the change in job duties was not appropriate or within the rights of the employer. However, absent sufficient cause, an employer has the ultimate determining right to assign job duties and change them at will.
Under the Family Medical Leave Act, an employee who becomes ill or who has an immediate family member who becomes ill and requires care has the right to return to their job position and duties as they left it. This is one of the few exceptions to the employer's right to change job duties at will. An employee's right to return to their job duties and their specific employment position, as they left it before taking medical leave under FMLA, has been upheld in court as a protected right. An employer cannot change the employee's job duties while they are on this type of medical leave. This does not mean that an employer cannot change an employee's job duties if the employee is absent on regular medical leave, such as for a flu or injury.