Workers' rights with shift changes

Written by tamara wilhite
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Workers' rights with shift changes
Around-the-clock operations result in multiple shifts. Employee rights on changes in shifts can trump employer preferences. (council image by bright from

Employers have the right to base shift assignments on company needs. However, workers have the right to request a shift change and to be offered reasonable accommodation if the shift change causes difficulties for them.

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Notifications and planning for conflicts

Workers have the right to be notified in advance of a shift change. The required amount of notice varies from regionally or from state to state. Employees have the right to refuse a shift change if it interferes with the ability to perform their job, such as lack of childcare. However, workers have the obligation to report conflicts. If the employer cannot accommodate the shift change request, workers can take the time off with vacation pay or without pay. If the conflict cannot be resolved, employees can be laid off for their inability to perform the job.

Religious accommodation

Workers whose religious beliefs are infringed upon by a shift change, such as one that requires them to work on a holy day, have the right to request a different shift. Workers also have the right to arrange a substitute to work in their place. This has been upheld as a worker's right under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of l964.


Employers have the right to assign the most desirable shifts based on seniority, per the National Labor Relations Board's rulings. Workers cannot be assigned to less desirable shifts in retaliation for whistle-blowing. Workers have the right to appeal unfair shift change assignments to their union representatives. Workers have the right to premium pay when employers pay shift differentials.

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