Can My Employer Make Me Work On My Scheduled Day Off?

Every worker wants to feel and believe that they are in control of the destiny of their career and future. Every employee wishes to have an understanding employer, someone who works for the mutual benefit of themselves and their employees. However, things do not always happen how we want them to. Let us know Can My Employer Make Me Work On My Scheduled Day Off?.

Before going into the details of how’s and why’s, the simple answer to your question- whether your employer can make you work on your scheduled day off, the answer is yes. Employees, often do not have a say at work, unless the employer chooses to make this an acceptable norm in the workplace.  

The Work Plan: At-Will Employment

In America, the employer sets the schedule for the employees. This also means that the employer can change and redesign the schedule at their will, even at the last minute and the employee would have to comply with the new modifications. This is because employment in the United States follows the “employment at will” program. 

With employment at will, not can your employer just call you to form on your off-day, they can also fire you if you fail to conform. 

About employment-at-will:

Employees can be fired at any moment, for any reason, no reason, or even a fake reason, under the at-will employment structure. At first glance, this law may appear draconian and ripe for employer exploitation; however, the rule also benefits employees, who have the freedom to take any available job and leave at any moment. The regulation developed as a reaction to feudalism and indentured servitude practices in the past. Landed servitude may nevertheless be standard practice in the absence of at-will employment. Employers are permitted to implement at-will employment practices in every state except Montana (which safeguards employees who have passed an initial “probationary term” from being fired without cause).

Jeff Bezos Career Advice
Jeff Bezos Career Advice

An at-will employee can be fired for any lawful cause at any time. If their employer decides to fire them, they will lose their job–and they will have very limited legal recourse to challenge their dismissal. If you are hired at will, your boss doesn’t have to provide you with a reason to fire you. In fact, the law presumes that you are employed at will unless your business expressly states that it would only fire employees for good reason.

The work schedule:

Furthering the effects of the at-will employment framework, your employer has the authority to instruct you when to work and to change your schedule at any time without warning. This is a logical result of at-will employment: if the company has the authority to fire you at any time, it may explicitly inform you when to report to work.

When you work is entirely up to the employer, regardless of your typical routine. The employer has the authority to make you come in early, stay late, or work on a day that is intended to be your day off. You could be fired if you don’t work when your boss says you have to. Worse, you could be fired “without cause.” A for-cause termination occurs when an employee does “something” that is regarded as a good reason for termination, rather than just generally mediocre or even poor performance.

Theft or assault at work, as well as stealing, are more dramatic examples, while insubordination and disregarding your manager’s directions are less dramatic ones. Refusing to work when your boss instructs you to, including on your day off, would be insubordination and a violation of your boss’s instructions, and might result in your termination. If your employer chooses to treat this as a for-cause termination, you will not be entitled to unemployment benefits as a result of your refusal. You will lose your job if you are fired for no reason.

Termination of your off-day:

This practice of terminating the employees for not reporting on their off days is sadly very common. Situations like these are immoral but employment attorneys experience such circumstances a lot.  Unusual terminations, including terminations based on workplace conflicts and fights, gossiping about a colleague’s personal life, or putting personal files onto a work computer, are all stories that employment lawyers hear all the time.

What is worse is that, albeit being immoral, these situations are perfectly legal. Termination cases in such settings are difficult to win because of the at-will employment structure. 

For the employer to be held liable, there must be a lawful justification for the wrongful termination. However, the issue of dismissal for taking a day off is tricky and will be determined by the facts.

So, if your employer requests you to come in on your day off, you can be fired for refusing to come in. Unfortunately, simply because you request it, your employer is not obligated to change your work schedule.

However, there is some positive news, at least for hourly workers. You must be compensated for all hours worked, including those spent on your day off. As a non-exempt employee (eligible for overtime), you will be paid overtime if working on your day off exceeds 40 hours for the week.

Exception to the rule

While at-will employment allows regular employees to change occupations at any time, it has understandably negative implications when employees appear to be terminated unfairly.

It is understandable if you think all of this sounds messed up and extremely unfair. However, there are several conditions in which termination is viewed as illegal-

  • Written employment contracts – That would be different if you had a signed employment contract specifying your vacation days: a contract binds both the company and the employee and is enforceable against both. You can’t be mandated to work on your contractually guaranteed day off. 
  • Religious Practices – Employee religious practices must be “reasonably accommodated” under US law. Your employer cannot force you to work or punish you for refusing to work if you take the day off to attend worship services or because your faith bans you from working on that specific day. (If they do, consult an employment attorney.) The religious conviction, on the other hand, must be genuine, and the day off must be used for religious observances or rites. This means that your employer cannot make you work on Saturdays if you are a religious Jew. If you are a Christian, you cannot be forced to work on Easter Sunday.
  •  “One day rest in seven”: NEW YORK- New York, like many other states, has enacted a “One Day Rest in Seven” law. Certain employers are obligated by law to give at least 24 hours of uninterrupted rest to their employees during each calendar week. This regulation applies to employers who work in factories, mercantile shops, hotels, and restaurants. The New York Department of Labour will prosecute any employer who violates this rule. Your employer has no legal right to terminate you if you reject. This guideline is broken by many employers, either purposefully or due to a lack of information. According to Section 161 of the New York State Labour Law, there are various exceptions to this regulation.
  • Diversity – Certain qualities, such as ethnicity, religion, or gender, cannot be used to fire you.
  • Human rights – You cannot be dismissed for exercising some legal rights, such as the ability to take medical leave, military leave, or time off to vote or serve on a jury.
  • Feelings of unsafety –You cannot be fired for complaining about workplace discrimination or harassment, or for reporting certain health and safety issues.

How to know if you are employed under the Employment-at-will structure?

Largely, workers in America are hired following the employment-at-will structure. There are certain circumstances that exempt you from this employment structure. 

  • If you have signed an employment contract that guarantees job stability then you are not on an employment-at-will basis. So, if your contract states that you are hired for one year and can only be fired if you commit a crime within that time then you cannot be fired randomly if you are not employed at will.
  • Unofficial statements made by the employer can at times be used by the New York employment lawyers to prove the not at-will employment of the worker. This is known as an implied contract, and proving an implied contract requires the assistance of a professional lawyer. Because the implicit contract is such a hazy term in employment law, we advise against relying on your own judgment if you feel you have one. To discuss your issue, contact an employment lawyer.

An implied contract can be generated in various ways-

  • Verbal assurances- verbal assurances from a supervisor or employer representative can lead to an implied contract, such as. “We need good individuals here, you are employed for life!” or “We do not dismiss workers without giving them a chance to correct their conduct.”
  • Employer’s handbooks, rules, procedures, or other written assurances- these measures can lead to the generation of implied contract
  • In the instance of an implied contract, the judge must decide whether or not the contract is legal.

Usually, a court would demand: 

  • A clear and explicit promise of employment made by the employer  
  • Employee’s trust in that promise and that their dependence was rational and expected
  • As a result, the employee was damaged. In this situation, “hurt” does not indicate “physically injured,” but rather “suffered a sufficient consequence as a result of the contract’s breach.”
    Consider an example, if your new employer asks you to relocate and promises you a long-term job, and you spend a lot of time and money relocating yourself and your family, and then your company fires you, this could be called ‘damage.’

Other Situations during the work schedule

Overtime termination –

Employers can typically compel employees to work overtime hours. Your employer may be entitled to fire you if you refuse to work overtime hours under the federal overtime statute, the Fair Labour Standards Act. There are no limitations on how many hours per week your boss can ask you to work under the Act.
Rather, the Act simply requires that employers pay overtime for any hours worked over the standard 40 in a week.
An employee cannot be fired for refusing to work overtime unless the overtime breaches a contract, the employee is not paid according to state or federal law, or the overtime poses a health or safety risk.

Legal to termination on the day off –

Assume an employer creates a weekly plan and allots one day off to each employee. After that, the employer has the authority to change their mind and deny the request for a day off. In fact, refusing to work could be called insubordination. However, as discussed, there are few instances where removal from office on a day off can be considered imbalanced.


It is unfortunately very legal for the employers to call you in on your scheduled off day. Not just that, your employer can even fire you for this. This works under the employment structure of at-will employment. 

There are several aspects of this structure, such as the acceptable parts of it, the exceptions, how to know if you are part of such a structure among other features. 

  • Is contacting my boss on my day of an absolute obligation?

The short answer is yes. As discussed, at-will employees can be fired for any reason or no reason at all. Working on your day off could be a justification for your employer to fire you, no matter how unfair it may appear. If you’re an hourly worker, you can get compensated for the time you spend working, even if you’re accepting calls on your day off. Fortunately, hardly every company, at least not on a regular basis, will expect you to take calls on your day off. The best option is to have a discussion with your manager about your responsibilities on your days off.

  • How to ask for a day off on short notice?

Life is unpredictable, anyone can find themselves in situations that are unavoidable, and coming into work is off-the-charts during such circumstances. Unfortunately, giving sufficient warning every time you require time off may not be feasible. Tell your manager as soon as you realize you need a day off. The most important thing that your employer cares about is the work not being affected by your last-minute change. This will give them ample time to reorder their calendar. Make an effort to make this request at a convenient moment. Making it easy for your supervisor to enable you to take the day off is the easiest approach to go about asking for it. Before addressing your supervisor, try to figure out coverage. Also, don’t make it a practice to accept last-minute demands.

Can My Employer Make Me Work On My Scheduled Day Off?

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