What recourse does a nurse have after her work schedule was drastically changed?

By | 2015-09-17T15:13:22-04:00 September 18th, 2015|0 Comments

Dear Nancy,

I have been working at a facility for more five years. I started as per diem, went to part time, then transitioned in January to a full-time slot after another colleague retired.
I contacted human resources once my work schedule was turned upside down in July from days to night on, night off, triage, day, etc. Copies of my status and acceptance letter were emailed to my manager, who stated I was hired as a flex position. However, that was not stated in the offer letter and was not acceptable. A scheduled meeting on my situation was postponed for management to do “research” while I continued to work the flex schedule. When the meeting finally took place, I was told the day position was an error, that there is no day position and I can either accept a full-time nights or flex position, neither of which are acceptable to me. I asked for a letter stating the error of the day position, but I have yet to receive one despite numerous call and emails. Should I seek legal counsel at this point? I feel management is trying to revamp the position seven months after the fact.



Dear Lois,

It sounds as though you have some documentation of the offer that was given to you, which was not a flex position but a day position. It would be difficult to determine from your question whether the letter could be construed as an employment contract, which should be honored by the facility, or just an offer of a position that provided no promise it would be given to you as stated in the letter and could be changed at the will of the employer because your status was more of an at-will employee rather than an employee who had a contract of employment.

Employers generally can and do eliminate positions, change position statuses, consolidate units and so forth as a facility sees fit. These are seen as business changes, and the general disclaimer in employee handbooks stating that what is in the handbook does not create a contract of employment serves the basis for the employer to make changes as it sees fit.

You might want to consult with a nurse attorney or attorney in your state who works with employees to determine exactly what might be done for you given these facts. Do keep in mind that unless one has a contract of employment with an employer for a specific position on a specific unit for a specified period of time, the employer is generally able to change one’s hours of work and one’s location of work within the facility. A company also can terminate one’s employment based on a good reason or for no reason at all, unless those changes are discriminatory in some way (based on age, religion or gender, for example).



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About the Author:

Nancy J. Brent, MS, JD, RN
Our legal information columnist Nancy J. Brent, MS, JD, RN, received her Juris Doctor from Loyola University Chicago School of Law and concentrates her solo law practice in health law and legal representation, consultation and education for healthcare professionals, school of nursing faculty and healthcare delivery facilities. Brent has conducted many seminars on legal issues in nursing and healthcare delivery across the country and has published extensively in the area of law and nursing practice. She brings more than 30 years of experience to her role of legal information columnist. Her posts are designed for educational purposes only and are not to be taken as specific legal or other advice. Individuals who need advice on a specific incident or work situation should contact a nurse attorney or attorney in their state. Visit The American Association of Nurse Attorneys website to search its attorney referral database by state.

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