Can your Employer change your Job description?

Introduction

Many of us accept a certain job with a suitable job description, which works two ways. You know exactly what is expected from you and your boss knows on the points to appraise you. But what happens when your manager just changes it? Is it acceptable for an employer to change a job description after a person has been hired? When can an employer change your job responsibilities? In many cases, employers do have the right to change your job description in order to meet the needs of their organization. Read on and find out what you can encounter and the ways out of this. An example from the western world and then some more specific to the USA.

Example

The company where Joe (33) has been working for a few years now, makes less turnover, which forced a number of colleagues to be fired. Joe is really happy that he can continue to work at the company, but his boss now wants him to perform other tasks. Because of the dismissal of his colleagues, there are now tasks unperformed. Joe finds himself in a dilemma: the thinks that the tasks he has performed are far better for him than the ones that his boss wants to give him. But is Joe in a position to refuse?

The issue

A change in your position can be seen as a change in employment conditions. This usually means that an employer asks an employee to perform another job at a different salary. However, an employer cannot simply do that.

An employer can request the employee’s consent to change the employment contract. Among other things, it is important that a reasonable time-out has been observed. If both the employee and the employer agree that the position is being adjusted, there is no cause for a problem. The problems come when one of the two parties wants to see a change, while the other wants it to remain as it is.

Practice

In practice it happens that an employee is asked to do, temporarily or otherwise, work other than what he was hired for. For this reason, employment contracts often stipulate that the employee must also perform all occurring and / or reasonably assignable work. Earlier court rulings have shown that an employee cannot simply reject the employer ‘s reasonable proposal. I think this is normal and everybody should see the challenge in that.

When a job description is going to be changed, it is first of all important to know why an employer wants to change that job. Maybe he  just expects that the employee will be relocated to other suitable work where possible. It is also possible that an employee has to stop work because he is not functioning properly. In the event of malfunctioning, the employee must first be informed of this and be given sufficient time and opportunity to improve the work.

In other cases it can be assumed that the employee’s consent is required to change an agreed job. An employee must, however, be flexible in this and accept reasonable proposals from the employer. In some cases, the employer can adjust the position to some extent without the employee’s permission. In that case it cannot be deduced from the employment contract or collective agreement what the position, activities, working hours and place of work of the employee are. It is also possible that the employment contract entails that the employer may determine or change these subjects. This power to unilaterally adjust the employment contract does, of course, have its limits too.

The solution

The question for Joe is whether his boss makes a reasonable proposal to him. Whether a proposal is reasonable depends on all the circumstances of the case. With a job change, the new job must be at a level that is comparable to the original job. 

Joe can now look for the best way to include his position in his employment contract. Is his position very clearly defined there? If the employer wants to change the working time, workplace and activities, the employer can do this. He must, however, act reasonably and observe the limits of the law, collective agreements and employment contract. However, the employer may not change the activities in such a way that this actually changes the agreed position. The work to be changed must match the position. 

Is it about work that really does not fall under Joe’s position, or does the employer propose to adjust other things such as wages or expense allowance? That just can’t be without the employee’s consent.

Situation in the USA

In most states, employees are considered to be hired at will meaning that their employment is voluntary and they can quit whenever they want. It also means that their employer can change their job or lay them off or reduce salary as they see fit. However, state laws do vary so check with your state department of labor for information on the law in your location.

Employers cannot transfer staff to another job in order to discourage an employee from taking a leave. In addition, workers are guaranteed access to a substantially equivalent job upon their return to the workplace after completing a leave.

Best Practices

Aside from these legal considerations, best Human Resource Management practices suggest that employers should seek employee agreement before making major changes in work roles and should redraft job descriptions to make the new role clear. Generally, morale and productivity are enhanced if workers approve their new job description.

If you are concerned about your job responsibilities being changed, it’s a good idea to see if you can discuss the situation with your manager or your company’s HR department to see if there is a way you can work out a solution that is agreeable to both yourself and your employer.

Other ways out

Some contracts are neither in writing nor stated explicitly, but are instead implied from all of the circumstances. For example, if the employee  handbook sets out a pay schedule and states that employees may be fired only for a specified list of reasons, that could create an implied contract. An employer that deviates from the promises in its rules and policies may be legally liable.

For example, even at-will employees are protected from retaliation for reporting discrimination, harassment, unsafe working conditions, and so on. If you complained of sexual harassment, and your employer responded by demoting you, that would not be legal. Even though your employer has the right to demote you generally, he does not have the right to demote you for illegal reasons.

Last resort: getting legal help

As you can see, even at-will employees have certain rights, including the right not to be subjected to illegal working conditions. If your employer disciplines, fires, or takes other negative actions against you because you have exercised a legal right or refused to do something illegal, you should consider a consultation with an employment attorney.

But there is another way out of this, which I am giving below!

Final thoughts

If you have an employment contract that limits the reasons for which you can be fired or sets the terms of your employment, your employer must abide by the agreement. The contract is a legal agreement that both you and the employer have to honor; to change its terms, you have to negotiate a new agreement.

If you’re employed at will, your employer doesn’t just have the right to fire you without notice or cause. He can also modify the terms and conditions of your employment without notice or cause. Of course, you are free to quit and look for other work if you don’t like these changes. But your employer is free to make them without running afoul of the law, unless the employee is acting for illegal reasons.

 

But what if you do not like change at all? You are perfectly ok with your current job and have the greatest fun. You want to go to a situation that this can never happen again. In such a case, why you do not become your own boss? There is now a way for everybody to do so through the internet. For example, you can become an affiliate marketer with the right help and support program. I am explaining how this works here and simultaneously will be reviewing the world’s best scam free program there is. See you there.

10 Replies to “Can your Employer change your Job description?”

  1. Hi Jerry. Thanks to you for writing this great, informative and educative post about employees job description changes. I’ve been there before but I had no choice. I like the encouragement from the post saying “There is always a way”. The last part of the post is a real deal to me. Thanks for sharing this trick 

    1. Sorry to hear that it happened to you and not in your favor I guess. You are not the only one though and more will follow. It is just that some companies deal with it the right way and some don’t. In the last case I have given ways out.

  2. Yes, it is considerate that when an employee has resumed his new position and is noticed to be malfunctioning therein, he ought to be informed of this shift and given some quality time to improve. I totally agree that the employer can alter the previous job description of the employee for cogent corporate needs of the company.

     In overall, I am glad to get acquainted again with my rights as an employee. I will be waiting hopefully for your affiliate marketing episode. Thanks.

    1. If an employee is not functioning well in a certain job, then it is a slightly different situation than the one described above. However, I do agree that the malfunctioning person should be spoken to and given time to improve.

  3. Wow, this was a great piece. A lot of us are working without really knowing what rights we do or do not have as employees and some employers definitely know that they are ignorant of their rights and this provides an opportunity where they could be taken for granted. I hope more and more people do more research into their rights as employees and if their employers can just change their job description without fulfilling certain requirements.

    Great piece, looking forward to reading more from you.

    1. When you have a labor contract, you should at least be aware of what is in it. After all you signed for it. HR should be playing a big role in this. Even without a contract you are not without rights as you can see from the above.

  4. Thanks for writing this article on can employer change job description. I must commend you for a well done job for taking your time to do your findings and research before writing this article on the things to know about both employer and employee job issue,almost every day this happen to someone in mostly every country and many don’t know the right steps to take just like some one like me. I really find this article educative and more enlighten 

    1. I am glad I could be of help to you. It is unfortunately the case that in most job description changes, they are not for the best of the employee, which is a bit understandable as it is triggered by organizational changes. However, this cannot be an excuse!

  5. Hello, I would like to acknowledge that this is a very informative article and I’m glad I came across it. The issues of bosses at work giving you some other duties that are not in your contract is not just happening now ,it’s been happening for awhile now and it’s no longer funny. Gone are the days when you just do all that they ask even at your own inconvenience. I’ll be happy to share this article so people can see that there are actions they can take against such boss that wont result in loss of job. Thanks for sharing

    1. Yes, it can be very annoying for some people and they should know what they can do. Even when you do not have a contract there are still ways to get out of that situation. Thanks for sharing my article with other people involved.

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