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Am I legally required to work overtime and how much notice must my employer give to add overtime to my shift?

San Bernardino, CA |

I work M - F from 7:30-4pm (8 Hours + 30 min lunch) and my supervisor will email me asking me if I can work 1 hour OT each day that week. Of course I always say yes. My supervisor emailed our department Friday afternoon and stated that we had a mandatory 5am-11am shift the following day (Saturday). I tried to negotiate as I had important plans and asked if I could work 5-9 instead. She practically threatened to fire me and told me that "mandatory" means disciplinary action if not followed. She said I could leave early this one time, but in the future any personal plans need to be changed to accommodate the business needs. Can she legally fire me for not being able to work last min OT like that?

My employer is at-will.

Attorney Answers 3


  1. I know this will be hard to believe, but an employer need not give you any advance notice of the need for you to work overtime, and you can be disciplined for refusing to work overtime, unless you are of a particular kind of job and your hours exceed 72 hours in a week.

    Your response as an at will employee is to agree to the terms required by your employer or quit and find another employer. That is the reality of the at will employment relationship.

    Good luck to you.

    This answer should not be construed to create any attorney-client relationship. Such a relationship can be formed only through the mutual execution of an attorney-client agreement. The answer given is based on the extremely limited facts provided and the proper course of action might change significantly with the introduction of other facts. All who read this answer should not rely on the answer to govern their conduct. Please seek the advice of competent counsel after disclosing all facts to that attorney. This answer is intended for California residents only. The answering party is only licensed to practice in the State of California.


  2. Yes. None. Yes, you can be fired if you are at at will employee. I agree with Attorney Pedersen.

    Frank W. Chen has been licensed to practice law in California since 1988. The information presented here is general in nature and is not intended, nor should be construed, as legal advice for a particular case. This Avvo.com posting does not create any attorney-client relationship with the author. For specific advice about your particular situation, please consult with your own attorney.


  3. Yes, this is legal UNLESS the reason you cannot work at that time is due to religious needs or related to a reasonable accommodation for a physical or mental disability. The harsh reality is employees and job applicants have very few employment rights, and employers have a lot of leeway in how they choose to run their businesses. In general, an employer can be unfair, obnoxious or bad at management. And an employer can make decisions based on faulty or inaccurate information. An employer has no obligation to warn an employee that he or she is not performing as the employer wants. It’s not a level playing field. An employer hires employees to provide work for its benefit, not for the benefit of the employees. Don't expect the employer to take care of its employees; it doesn’t have to and it rarely does.

    There are some limitations on what an employer can do, mostly in the areas of public policy (such as discrimination law or whistle blowing), contract law, union-employer labor relations, and constitutional due process for government employees. Please see my guide to at-will employment in California which should help you understand employment rights: http://www.avvo.com/legal-guides/ugc/an-overview-of-at-will-employment-all-states. After you take a look at the guide, you may be able to identify actions or behavior that fits one of the categories that allows for legal action. If so, an experienced plaintiffs employment attorney may be helpful.

    Employment rights come from the state and federal legislatures. One of the best things people can do to improve their employment rights is vote for candidates with a good record on pro-employee, anti-corporate legislation. Another way to protect employment rights is to form or affiliate with a union, or participate in a union already in place.

    I hope you can resolve your situation and wish you the best.

    *** All legal actions have time limits, called statutes of limitation. If you miss the deadline for filing your claim, you will lose the opportunity to pursue your case. Please consult with an experienced employment attorney as soon as possible to better preserve your rights. *** Marilynn Mika Spencer provides information on Avvo as a service to the public, primarily when general information may be of assistance. Avvo is not an appropriate forum for an in-depth response or a detailed analysis. These comments are for information only and should not be considered legal advice. Legal advice must pertain to specific, detailed facts. No attorney-client relationship is created based on this information exchange. *** Marilynn Mika Spencer is licensed to practice law before all state and federal courts in California, and can appear before administrative agencies throughout the country. She is eligible to represent clients in other states on a pro hac vice basis. ***

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