Finishing the daily shift and heading home is a comfort that any employee looks forward to after a grueling day. Hence, it can be frustrating when an employer asks the employee to stay back after the shift ends, especially without prior notice.
While it is alright if your employer is suddenly inundated by work overflow and requests you to work overtime for a couple of days. It is unacceptable if they keep holding you back regularly after your shift has ended.
If you have no objections to staying back and working extra hours because your employer adequately compensates you, then there is nothing to worry about. However, problems arise when the employer first asks you to stay back as a favor and then makes it a norm.
New employees have trouble turning down their employers because they do not want to risk losing their jobs and for fear of coming across as unprofessional. Unfortunately, working past shift hours is seen as a sign of dedication, and those who choose to leave at the end of their shift are often termed unmotivated.
However, everyone is entitled to enjoy a work-life balance as long as you put in the required 40 hours per week at work. Whatever time your contract demands, your employer cannot expect or force you to stay beyond that without adequate compensation.
Let us have a closer look at this issue.
Can an Employer Request You to Work Beyond Your Shift Time?
Yes, your employer may request you to work past your shift when the workflow is high during peak times of the year. You may or may not choose to comply, depending on your availability.
Your employer cannot force you to stay back if you have already completed your stipulated 40 hours per week. You may visit back after the shift ends of your own free will and if your employer compensates you.
Should Your Employer Give You Prior Notice to Stay Back?
Your employer should give you notice if they want to stay beyond your shift on certain days. Sometimes emergencies may occur, and even your employer might not have had enough time to inform you.
In such cases, it is entirely up to you whether you want to stay and help. Most employees who love their workplace will stay and help unless needed elsewhere, as this is a mark of loyalty and love for the company.
Your employer cannot penalize you in any way if you do not want to stay back. It is more about creating a positive image as an employee. Your employer will remember when you returned to help.
What Can You Do If Your Employer Forces You to Stay Back?
Some toxic workplaces enable a culture where employers often threaten their employees with dire consequences if they do not agree to work beyond their shift. This is not legal in any way.
Your employer cannot threaten you with consequences like firing you from your job, cutting your perks, or not renewing your contract. If you feel intimidated, you can complain to the higher authorities in your company.
If your employer tries to force you to stay back, you may call 911 and ask to be removed from the premises if you are held against your will.
How Long Can an Employer Keep You After Your Shift?
Even if you agree to stay back and help for some time, you are free to leave at any point after your shift ends, and your employer cannot dictate how long they want you to stay back.
If you have to commute long distances for work and you know that staying late at work beyond a certain time will make you miss your last bus or train, or you could face other hazards on the road on your way back, then you can leave as soon as your shift is over.
You may agree to help only until it is convenient for you, and then you may take your leave.
Bonus Read: How Far Is Too Far To Drive To Work?
Can You Be Fired for Leaving at Scheduled Time?
No, your employer cannot fire you for leaving at the scheduled time. Your employers cannot fire you if you have completed your work and work hours per week.
If they do anything or threaten to fire you, you have a right to sue them. Try speaking to them first about your inconvenience. Still, if they keep trying to indulge in the power play, you have a right to take legal action against them.
However, make sure you go through the work contract to check that there is nothing that states your employer can hold you back after your shift or can ask you to stay overnight.
Some employees do not read the work contract thoroughly before signing on the dotted line while joining, and they have trouble making a case for themselves. Hence, it is better to be sure before taking legal action.
Can Your Employer Change Your Schedule Without Asking You?
Yes, it is well within your employer’s rights to change your schedule last minute and without asking you. However, most employers do the courtesy of notifying their employees.
According to the Fair Labor Standards Act or FLSA, employers can change their employees’ schedules under federal employment laws. This includes changing the work hours without the employee’s consent.
However, the employer can only do that if there is no prior written agreement to the contrary. It means that if a contract was signed between you and your employer with a clause. Stating that the latter would not change your work hours without your permission, they are obligated to work accordingly.
If they change your schedule without asking you, it is a breach of contract. Hence, if you are particular about your work hours, you can include this clause when joining the company. Your employer may or may not consent to it, so it is up to you to join regardless of the clause or not.
A lot also depends on the region where you work. For example, in New York City, employers must provide their employees with at least 72 hours notice before making changes to their schedule. In Oregon, this period is extended to 14 days. In San Francisco, employers have to increase the regular pay rate if they change employee schedules to less than a seven-day schedule.
However, once your employer has changed your schedule, they will have to designate work hours and shift for you. For example, your employer can change your day to evening shift, but once they do that, they will have to stick to the schedule, and they cannot force you to work once your new growth has ended.
Conditions When Employers Cannot Change Your Schedule
In certain situations, your employers cannot change your schedules or shift times, no matter the reason. Knowing about them will help you protect your rights as an employee.
1. FMLA Leave
If you have taken a leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act, then your employer cannot change your schedule while on leave. They must provide you with the same working conditions on your return, and if they want to change anything, they can only do so after you have resumed work.
2. Variations in Regional Laws
Your employer must follow all the laws in your state and federal laws. If any local law states that your employer cannot change your schedule last minute so that they can ask you to work at odd hours, then they have to abide by them.
3. Industry Norms
In some industries, there are strict rules regarding how many hours of work an employee can put in to prevent fatigue and eliminate chances of error at work. For example, doctors and nurses or even firefighters cannot work beyond a certain number of hours. Pilots and sailors also have to follow similar regulations.
4. No Compensation
If your job is subject to overtime laws, then your employer cannot ask you to work beyond your scheduled shift without compensating you for it. They have to log in your work hours, and you can refuse to work if they try to pay you lower wages than your rightful overtime.
What Can You Do If Your Employer Makes Constant Changes?
If your employer keeps changing your schedule last minute all the time simply because they can, or they keep asking you to stay back, then you can speak to someone about the problem. Constant changes can wreak havoc on your work-life balance, and you need to talk to someone to put things in order.
1. Speak to Your Employer
The first thing you need to do is to speak to your employer. Maybe they are so neck-deep in the workplace issues that they have noticed the inconvenience they have caused you. Try giving them the benefit of the doubt and have an open and honest conversation about it.
Be polite but tell them that the constant shift changes or requests to stay back after the shift is causing additional stress or hindering your work-life balance. In most cases, the employers will understand.
2. Speak to the HR
You can also schedule a meeting with HR and discuss company policies. Tell them about the difficulties you are facing and ask them to create a more consistent schedule or stop making constant requests to stay back after the shift is over.
3. Ask for Legal Advice
If all else fails and you keep getting unwanted orders to stay back after work. If you are threatened when you refuse to comply, you can also seek legal advice.
Refusing your perks or threatening to fire you because you refuse to work beyond your shift is a violation. You can seek legal help to resolve the problem and fight for your rights.
In most cases, when the employer asks an employee to stay back after their shift is over, it is primarily due to a dire necessity. However, some employers have a toxic temperament and want to burden their existing workforce. They do not have to spend time and resources on hiring new employees.
It should be entirely up to you if you want to stay back and help your employer on certain days when there is extra work pressure. Your employer cannot force you to do it. Once you have cleared your stand, your employer will surely understand and stop asking you to stay back after your shift.