Schedule change?

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Is a new manager permitted to change an employee’s schedule? Pattie Hunt Sinacole advises

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Q: I have been working as a receptionist for a few years, at a local law firm.  We have a new office manager, who is my supervisor.  For the past few years, I have been fortunate to be able to leave an hour early to pick up my grandchild from school.  I was originally hired and told the hours would be 9am to 5pm, but I asked for some flexibility before I was hired.  My last office manager was more flexible and made an exception for me.  I know the others in the office are annoyed because I was granted this exception.  Now the new office manager is asking me to work a 9am to 5pm schedule.  She is giving me one more month before I need to work the 9am to 5pm schedule.  I like my position, and the company.  They give us 100% company-paid benefits and a 401(k) match. 

Can she really change my schedule?  I have been working my current schedule for almost three years.

A: This is a tricky situation because I can see both sides of the issue.  You did not mention this, but I ask because have seen this in other office environments.  Do others have to cover the front desk when you leave your office, while working earlier hours?  Then, your office manager may have a point.  She is likely trying to balance fairness as well as meeting client needs.  If your co-workers have asked for a similar schedule, and their request has been denied, this might be a concern for your new manager.    

Employers are doing their best to retain talent.  Although we see and hear reports about big company layoffs, the unemployment rate in Massachusetts remains around 3%.  This often means the pendulum has swung (and has remained) on the side of the employee or candidate.  This fact might work to your favor.  However, it seems like your new office manager is trying to give a reasonable amount of time to adapt to the new schedule. 

There are some ways of re-working your responsibilities.  One option is setting up a phone at the front desk with a sign that says “Press One for Attorney Jane Brown, Press Two for Attorney Alicia Smith,” etc.  The risk with that solution is that it may work.  Really work!  Even to the point where it works you out of a job.  If they implement that option, and if it is effective, then the office manager may re-think your role.  Another option is to suggest that the earlier schedule could be offered on a rotating basis.  For example, Sam could work the earlier schedule on Mondays, you could work the earlier schedule on Tuesdays, and Jasmine could work the schedule on Mondays.  This is probably not ideal for you, because of your grandchild’s schedule, but it may be better than a consistent 9am to 5pm schedule every week.

Most employers, in Massachusetts, can change an employee’s hours to fit their business needs.  There are very few limitations on work hours, but a significant one covers minors.  Minors are defined as workers under 18 years of age.

Though I am not certain, I would guess that the attorneys in your office, may have visitors who arrive after you have left.  Or maybe there are express mail packages which require your assistance, to ensure that they are picked up by a certain time.  Every time I have ever walked into an attorney’s office late in the day, there seems to be a pile of express mail packages which require pick-up that same day.

It may be worth offering different alternatives.  Few may match your earlier schedule, but the outcome may be an improvement over a consistent return to a 9am to 5pm schedule.                

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