Q: I work in the hotel industry as a Front Guest Service Manager and my boss and corporate are trying to add a department under me, which means more hours and no additional pay. Can they legally do this and what are my rights?
A: Most employees in the US are "at will" employees. What this means is that these employees are not members of a union or covered by a bargaining contract. In 2009, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that 12.3% of all US workers were members of a union or covered by a collective bargaining agreement. Go here for more information about union membership data in the US workforce.
The answer to your question largely depends upon whether you are "at-will" or you are a member of a union or covered by a collective bargaining agreement. Unions or individual employment contracts can provide some protection to employees around employment changes, including the concerns that you mention in your inquiry. If you are a member of a union, you may want to contact your union representative to ask about your options.
There are employment laws in place that provide both "at-will" and union employees. Some of these include Title VII, the Family and Medical Leave Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. However, in most "at-will" employment situations, your employer can change or adjust roles and responsibilities and the employer is not violating the law.
Although I understand your concern about "more hours and no additional pay," this may be your initial perception. Perhaps there is some further shifting of responsibilities or staff that could alleviate the expected increase to your workload? Perhaps the changes would be dramatic at first, but then with time would not substantially increase your work hours? Or is this maybe a temporary measure to help your employer weather the current economic downturn? In short, you may want to consider giving it a chance before you assume the worse-case scenario. Sometimes job-related changes (especially increases in responsibility) can work to your advantage by broadening your skills and experience. This may ultimately make you more marketable as you progress in your career.
If your situation does become intolerable, you could also consider approaching your supervisor or a member of your company's Human Resources office to express your concerns. If you choose to take this route, spend some time preparing notes that outline your concern. Be professional and courteous. Think about alternatives and solutions rather than just complaining about the possible changes. You could also consider requesting a transfer into another role, department or division.
Many employers, including the travel and tourism industry, are struggling with how to maximize financial efficiencies while still trying to deliver superior customer service. This often translates into employees taking on additional tasks or areas of responsibility, especially in these challenging economic times.
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Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.
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