A change to an employee's shift time might require work at a different time of day or lead to a reduction of work hours. In addition, an employee might oppose changes to his shift because of the disruption to his schedule and personal time. State law sets labor protections for workers and imposes requirements for employers. Employers and employees should understand the New York state labor laws regarding changes to employees' shift times if any changes are in the works.
Unionized employees who oppose a potential change in shift time may have labor rights through their collective bargaining agreement (CBA). A union negotiates a CBA to establish the terms of members' employment; these terms often include provisions regarding shifts. The New York State Public Employment Relations Board has allowed employees to overcome a change in shift time after reviewing employees' legal arguments based on analysis of their CBA. In one matter heard by the board, firefighters protested a change from 24-hour shifts to 10-hour and 14-hour shifts. The board held that the employer hadn't met its obligation under the CBA to show that continuing 24-hour shifts was not "practical." While unionized employees may have rights through their CBA, New York state doesn't specifically prohibit changes to the shifts of nonunion employees unless the decision violates other state laws, such as the laws prohibiting workplace discrimination or retaliation.
Consequences for Unemployment Insurance Benefits
If an employee leaves a job because of a change in shift time, the decision might affect the employee's right to apply for unemployment benefits through the New York State Department of Labor. Section 593 of New York's labor laws defines "voluntary separation" for the purposes of unemployment. The Department of Labor's Electronic Interpretation Service includes several notes regarding voluntary separation due to shift-related changes. In one note, an employee quit after the employer asked for a change to the day shift. The state doesn't view the decision as a basis for voluntary separation that will permit the collection of unemployment benefits. If an employee leaves a job due to the personal inconvenience of a change in shift time, it might become more difficult to apply for unemployment benefits.
The New York State Department of Labor requires employers to record information regarding employee shifts. The employer maintains this type of information as part of the employer's payroll records. The records must include the number of hours worked each day and each week by an employee. In addition, the records must state the times of arrival and departure for each employee who works more than 10 hours at a time or who works a split shift.
In April 2011, New York state passed the New York Wage Theft Prevention Act to protect employees from wage-and-hour violations. The act requires posted information and notices regarding employees' rates of pay and regular pay dates. In addition, the act seeks to prevent employer retaliation against employees who report employers for violations of the state's labor laws. The act specifically prohibits the transfer of an employee from one shift to another as an act of retaliation.