Right to Request Changes in Work Schedule without Fear of Retaliation

Vermont and the cities of Berkeley and San Francisco have taken steps to put into law protection for employees who request changes to their work schedule without fear of retaliation. While each law varies in parameters the intent across the board is to create a process in which employees can request a change to their schedule, and for employers to review and accept or deny the request.

Many workers fear of being seen as less dedicated, loyal, or hard working when they request changes to their schedule. The “right to request” laws provide some grounds for employees to understand what they can ask for and how to ask for those changes to their work schedule. While this doesn’t mean employers have to approve all requests, it does mean employers in these areas have to be open to discourse regarding intermediate or perhaps long-term accommodations for changes in hours or days worked to employees’ schedules.

Depending upon their circumstances employees may ask to work a different shift, request to work from home, request starting earlier or later etc. In San Francisco, the right to request law applies to certain employees that have applicable parental or caregiver responsibilities. Employers are mandated to review the change requests to employees’ schedule.  In each of the laws there is usually a basis for employers to reject requests. However, it is the duty of the employer to provide a qualified reason. In some fashion, each law spells out legal guidelines for denying an employee’s request for change to their shift schedule.

In San Francisco, it is illegal for an employer to fire an employee for making such requests so employees can rest assured they can request changes to their working schedule without fear of being let go.

While conversations between employee and employer are centered around finding a common ground where the employee can take care of their special circumstances, and the business can still operate as needed, many benefits have been cited by employees who have worked out agreements with their employer.  Such employees enjoy shorter time to commute and reduction in the employee “burnout” syndrome. They feel more in control of their working life and that can lead to increased productivity, lower absenteeism, happier and less stressed workforce.  Employers can benefit from reduction in staff turnover and recruitment costs.

Today’s work environment cultivates the need for employees to make requests to change their shift schedule.  Many family households have both spouses working which makes managing family demands more difficult. Flexible work environments can help employees continue to work effectively while attending to changing family situations.  Employee scheduling software can help with flexible scheduling and shift trades.