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Thread: Full Time Employee Paid Hourly Not Allowed to Work Full Time Hours - Illinois

  1. #1
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    Default Full Time Employee Paid Hourly Not Allowed to Work Full Time Hours - Illinois

    My wife works in healthcare as a full-time employee paid on an hourly basis. Up to recently, she has worked at least 32-40 hours a week, and more so if her employer needed her. Recently, her boss has been sending her home more and more, even when she wants to work and needs the money. This is a result of the poor economy.

    This situation alarmed me partly because I am a freelancer. I have clients who pay me hourly and only hire me when they have the budget to do so. These clients end up paying me a great deal more than I was making hourly in my former full-time post, but it is in their best interest to do so because they only pay me when the money is there and their budget's allow. As a freelancer, I have the right to refuse work for any number of reasons, and my clients have the right to limit my hours, or not use me at all!

    My question is how is her situation fair? I presented the scenario that if she suddenly chose to work at Starbucks to make up for lost pay, could she tell her boss "Sorry I cannot come in until noon, I am working at Starbucks this AM." In that situation I feel like her boss would say this is violating her status as a full time employee. She has the responsibility to be there when her employer asks her to. Right? So, why is it fair for an employer, employing at a full-time status, have the right to send her home and not allow her to make a full-time salary?

    I feel that when a person is not working 32+ hours a week, they should be employed as a contractor or freelancer. However, my brief research seems to point in the direction that "full time" is defined by the employer and left at their discretion.

    Any thoughts on this? I cannot find an answer anywhere. Please help. Thanks!

  2. #2

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    Unfair or not its not illegal! Unless she has a cba or employment contract that states otherwise the actions are legal

  3. #3
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    Here's something else for you to consider.

    There are a couple of ways that an employee affected by the economy, which is just about everyone, can handle it when they don't have enough work for everyone. They can cut everyone's hours a little bit so that everyone has some hours. Or, they can lay off one or two people so that they have no hours, and then let everyone else keep full time hours. Your wife is better off getting some hours than no hours!

    The law does not care about fair. The law cares about legal. It is legal for your wife's employer to cut her hours, even if she was hired at full time, if he does not have full time work for her. He does not have to pay her to come in and do nothing if he does not have enough work for her. Unless she has a bona fide contract or CBA that guarantees that she will never, under any circumstances, be scheduled for less than full time hours, the employer has no legal obligation to schedule her for hours he cannot afford to pay.

  4. #4
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    Thanks for the responses. I'm sure she has a contract, and it likely says nothing about the employer being obligated to work their employee X hours a week. I have not seen it though...

    Does she have the right of first refusal then? Could she in fact get a freelance/part-time job at another employer, keep her benefits as a "full time employee" and tell her boss when and when she cannot work? The situation seems that she could legally tell her boss she is working 10 hours a week, keep those nice benefits, and work somewhere else, part-time, at her discretion. Thoughts?

    Is the law even the issue here? Are her rights even a factor? Is this more about what the employer deems reasonable and what they require of their employees? In other words, could the boss simply say "Your fired you've suddenly become a bad employee because you're only available to work 10 hours a week."

    But then again, if her contract does not require the hospital to employ her for X number of hours, it probably does not require her to work X number of hours. Don't you think?

  5. #5

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    Refusing work could lead to a termination

  6. #6
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    First we need to establish if she has an actual contract. Offer letters very rarely if ever reach the level of a contract. Outside of union situations, the fact is that only a very small percentage of employees have contracts.

    If she is one of the few, then the contract will state both how many hours she is guaranteed, whether or not she has the right to refuse work, whether or not she may take a second job, and under what circumstances she may keep her benefits. Contracts are not one sided. They grant both rights and restrictions on both sides.

    In the event that she does not have an actual contract, which is by far the more likely situation unless she either is a member of a union or is a very high level executive employee, then she is entitled to work the number of hours that her employer schedules her for. Whether or not she will be fired for refusing work is up to the employer, but it is legal if she is. It is not illegal for her to have a second job but she may be fired for not being availalble when her employer wants her to be there, even if she is scheduled to work at her other job. What benefits she has and under what circumstances she will lose them are determined by the plan documents for ERISA based plans, and by company policy for the rest. In the current economy there's no use trying to pretend that the pendulum has not swung to favor the employer; ten years ago it was the exact opposite and the pendulum will swing again. But right now, the employer is the one who signs the paycheck and therefore the employer is the one who makes the rules.

    There is no law that guarantees her full time employment, (employment at all), the right to refuse work without repercussions, to keep her benefits if she is working less than the plan documents state, or the right to keep a second job at the expense of the scheduling of her first job. I"m not going to tell you it's fair. I am going to tell you it's legal.

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