Are your workload increases legal?

At this time of year, it is common for workers to take on new projects or for employers to assign new duties for employees. While some workers may appreciate the challenge of a new assignment, it may be a tacit way of getting rid of an employee.

Essentially, there is no state or federal law prohibiting employers from piling on work. Employers basically create excessive work assignments at their own peril; they run the risk of having disgruntled employees. But when an employer attempts to fire an employee for not living up to additional expectations, there could be cause for a legal remedy.

Because of this, employees should be wary of the following if they are being subjected to higher workloads. 

Are the increases consistent? – If your employer substantially increases your workload, and no one else’s around you, this could be a sign of discrimination depending on if you are a member of a protected class and the specific nature of the increases.

Is the timing suspicious? – Be wary of workload increases during sensitive periods, such as directly after returning to work after an illness or injury. If you are subject to limitations based on your physician’s recommendations, your employer should respect those boundaries. If you are forced to work in excess of your doctor’s advice, this may form the basis for a lawsuit.

Are you forced to forgo breaks? – State laws requiring hourly employees to take periodic breaks must be followed. If your employer requires you to work through certain breaks, or asks you to be “on call” even through your lunch break, this may be the basis for a lawsuit. 

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