I work at a hotel and there is someone at the front desk 24/7. I once volunteered to work overnights because I love to cook but a few incidents happened and I no longer feel comfortable working those hours, especially alone (there is only ever one person on shift unless we are training). I tried locking the doors and staying preoccupied to avoid thinking about it but I am a paranoid person since those incidents.

The graveyard shift is manageable during weekdays, I was originally only supposed to work two nights (Monday and Tuesday) where there is less going on but recently the schedule changed due to a new hire and now I have to work three nights (Thursday, Friday and Saturday) and those are the nights where everyone parties and gets drunk. I am a young woman (20) and not at all intimidating to men who are twice my age and tower over me (I'm 5'5").

I have voiced my concerns and how uncomfortable I am working those hours now so much so that she hired a second new girl to take my night shifts whom was let go due to reasons. I asked if she will be hiring another person so that I could be moved off of night shift and she said no, I then asked if I could possibly not do night shift on the weekends seeing as those are the nights I don't feel comfortable working (I did offer to work the evening shift on the weekends instead) and she said that I didn't have a choice on what days I did night shift because full time night shift works the weekdays and part time night shift works the weekends. I also brought up that with the old schedule I was working the evenings on the weekend and then did my two nights of night shift and asked if we could go back to that and she once again denied me and said that I had to work the three night shifts now instead of two.

I'm just wondering if I have a right to refuse to work the night shift due to me not feeling comfortable and safe during the overnight hours, especially on the weekends? I don't want to cause problems at work but I also don't want to work shifts where I don't feel safe. Everyone I talked to just tells me to lock the doors but even then, what about the people that are inside the hotel? I also have to cook breakfast and where the kitchen and continental area are located I am not on camera and I get paranoid about anythin

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    Bad situation to be in, is there no security at night? When I worked security we made a point on making rounds to check on staff working solo.
    – Kilisi
    Commented Nov 15, 2018 at 4:07
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    right or wrong aside, without a contract, you can be fired for refusing to work as assigned.
    – dandavis
    Commented Nov 15, 2018 at 5:53
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    @dandavis That would be true in the US. I don't know about Canada (and my compliments to a new contributor who puts a country tag in the question). Refusing assigned work without cause is likely to be a good reason for termination, but this isn't without cause. Commented Nov 15, 2018 at 17:27
  • @dandavis without a contract you wouldn't even have to show up for work there ever again...did OP say there is no contract btw? I missed it. Commented Nov 18, 2018 at 7:24

3 Answers 3


This is tagged as Canada, so you would have a right to refuse work, see https://www.monkhouselaw.com/bullyingharassment/ but that has more to do with specific incidents, etc. If they've changed your schedule you should make sure to check with a lawyer as to if it might be a constructive dismissal.

However, your employer is likely not required to pay you if you are refusing shifts, so in effect the job might become part-time. It does sound like getting a new job might be your best option.

While your employer might not be able to technically terminate you for refusing work, it would not be surprising if you are suddenly chosen for a 'layoff' due to 'lack of work' which would then net you a couple of months of severance pay but you would be looking for a new job in any event.


I believe it is time to look for another job.

You could have another chat with your boss laying out what shifts you'd like to work and what shifts you don't want to (or can't) work.
If she can't or won't change the assignments you should let her know that you unfortunately will have to look for another place to work that you feel safer at.

There are reasons why night shifts are preferrably given to men and your concerns are smack in the middle of those.

Regarding your question:
Unless they are explicitly within your contractual duties you may refuse any work you don't feel able to perform or deem unsafe or inappropriate.
Even if they are within your duties, you may deny performing them if the health and safety protocols and safeguards in place are insufficient.
After all, you're not a slave and your safety is your priority.

Obviously this may result in you being let go.

Also, have a look at safety laws and Health and Safety or Union regulations regarding your night shift situation.
You may find arguments supporting your position during talks with your boss.
Are you in a union? They could help as well.


Making the workplace safe is employer's duty:

Every employer is responsible for his/her employee's well being while they are on duty. As far as I know, all the countries give employees the right to refuse dangerous work. (for example, Right to refuse work)

I want you to know that you can refuse any work that makes you feel unsafe. Even if the contract states that it's your duty, in the light of recent incidents, the work place is not safe which gives you the right to refuse it. Yes, there'll still be consequences of refusing work (less work => less pay, possible layoff, etc) but think hard and decide for yourself if those matters to you. This place fails to fulfill it's basic commitment of providing a safe work environment. (A place where there's only one (female) person on duty while multiple (drunk) guests have (or can gain) easy access to, is just waiting for an incident to occur, anyone would feel overwhelmed and unsafe. Where are the bouncers, security personnel, guards?). Then they didn't even try to address your concerns and simply said 'no' even after you approaching them on multiple occasions, that just seems unreasonable. Do you really want to work for such a place?

But before you start refusing the work, I suggest you answer these questions for yourself:

What did they do after the said incidents? Did they investigate the incidents? What changes did they make? How did they assure you (and your colleagues) that these kind of incidents won't ever happen in your workplace?

After answering them,

  • if you conclude they have taken ample steps to ensure safety but it's just you who can't get over it, this could be because

    1. You were directly involved in the incidents: in which case, I'm sorry you had to go through whatever it was that happened and your manager expecting you to go back to same schedule like nothing happened is being unreasonable here and I strongly suggest getting professional help for yourself and reaching out to someone above your manager, unfortunately, this may add to your stress and you may end up looking for a new job any way.
    2. You heard about it and realize how close you were to experiencing the same which scares you. You must assess how real the threat was/is and take appropriate steps to address your fear but as a rule of thumb, if you feel scared, you're in an unsafe environment.

If you conclude, the company hasn't taken appropriate steps to address the issue then make an official complaint to bring it to your manager's (and even her superior's) attention and go from there. They might take some time to address it but you can keep assessing the situation while refusing to work those shifts until the situation improves. Remember to spread awareness to your friends, colleagues, etc so that they can join you in the complaint and also so that they can stay safe/alert if they have to work these shifts. If they address the issue and you feel comfortable then all good else you really should go for new opportunities.

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