The Fair Labor Standards Act serves as the foundation for federal labour law and is designed to provide workers with protections against overwork and abusive payroll practices while allowing employers the flexibility to schedule workers as their business needs dictate. Because of this, there are no federal regulations that require a human resources department to provide advance notice before changing an employee's shift. Other laws, particularly overtime regulations if the schedule change occurs in the midst of a workweek, may apply.
FLSA and Scheduling
The FLSA doesn't address scheduling in any manner, allowing employers to shuffle shifts and change schedules as needed to maintain the profitability of their business. Because of this, employers don't need to provide advance notice to workers when adjusting schedules, and workers have no legal recourse against an employer that alters their shift without prior notice. Additionally, employers aren't liable for any conflicts in a worker's personal life, such as reimbursing them for the cost of missed entertainment events or charges stemming from rescheduling appointments.
Maintaining Company HR Policies
While the FLSA doesn't regulate an employer's scheduling policies, case law in most circuits requires employers to honour any policies about scheduling it published or maintained in the past. Because of this, if the company handbook outlines policies that provide that the HR department will give advance notice of shift changes and fails to provide notice as outlined by company policy, the employer may be held liable for disruptions in the employee's life or may be found liable for additional damages in civil court.
Employment Contracts or Union Protections
Some employees receive additional protection against last-minute schedule changes through terms negotiated in their employment contract or through collective bargaining agreements. Workers who think their shift change violates their union contract should contact their union representative. Employees who believe they didn't receive notification for a schedule change necessary as defined by their individual employment contract must pursue the matter in civil court.
If the worker who receives a new schedule makes the move to a different shift in the middle of a workweek, he may qualify for overtime pay as mandated by the Fair Labor Standards Act. Employers must maintain a consistent workweek that begins and ends on the same day of the week, and hourly workers who work more than 40 hours during that workweek must receive overtime pay of 150 per cent of his normal hourly wage for all hours that exceed 40 in a week.