5

There was a reorg at my company and my job duties changed. Pre-reorg I was doing data analysis (I'm a statistician), post-reorg I was assigned non-data analysis duties (more like a business analyst).

To me it seems like a breach of contract if your employer changes your job duties following a departmental reorganization. You sign on with a company to perform a specific duty unless the job description explicitly states you may be reassigned without warning. I can imagine how my supervisor would feel if I told him "There's been a reorg, I'm no longer going to do x, instead I'm working on y now." :-)

Am I missing some fine print somewhere that allows a company to reassign job duties without the consent of the employees? I do not have a formal employment contract, but I did receive an offer letter that stated salary and job duties, which I assume is the de facto employment contract.

I understand finding another position either within or without the company is (sometimes) an option, but that places the burden on the employee, when it ought to be on the employer in my estimation.

  • 1
    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Neo Nov 15 '19 at 16:05
11

Am I missing some fine print somewhere that allows a company to reassign job duties without the consent of the employees? I do not have a formal employment contract, but I did receive an offer letter that stated salary and job duties, which I assume is the de facto employment contract

In the US, your offer letter does not contractually guarantee that the job duties remain the same. In general, your employer can change the assignments without your consent. That is not a breach of contract. An offer letter is not a legal contract, but instead a form of communication that expresses interest in a particular candidate.

Many times you can discuss the proposed change in duties before they take effect, indicate your displeasure, and work toward a mutually-satisfying solution. I've done that many times over my career. But that's not always possible.

Your recourse, if you no longer like the assigned job duties and you can't come to an agreement, is to find a new job.

If you actually had a formal work contract or collective bargaining agreement that spelled out the specifics of your job and indicated that it couldn't be changed without mutual consent, things might be different. But in general, that's not how it works in the US.

  • 1
    I don't know much about the legal situation in the US but from what you describe, there is no work contract (in the sense a Western European would have) but just some kind of loose 'gentlemens' agreement between employer and employee that either side can change or cancel more or less at will. In this situation the question by OP doesn't really seem meaningful to me. – quarague Nov 14 '19 at 12:51
  • 1
    OP's other potential recourse is to organize their workplace so that they have leverage to make job duty related demands. – Monica Apologists Get Out Nov 14 '19 at 13:02
  • @JoeStrazzere Sounds like it's a good idea to negotiate an employment contract spelling out job duties prior to accepting the job offer. Hypothetically, if an employer doesn't like you, say because of your race or religion, all they have to do is reassign you to job duties they know you can't perform, then dump you. Sure, I could possibly find a new job, but there's a distinct power imbalance here - I'd say it's no burden for large employers to find a replacement. But not everyone can find a new job immediately. – RobertF Nov 14 '19 at 13:31
  • @JoeStrazzere No, not in my case, thankfully. Come to think of it, an employer can fire you without providing any reason in an at-will employment State in the U.S., even if that reason should be racist, right? – RobertF Nov 14 '19 at 13:50
2

employer changes your job duties following a departmental reorganization

Well, it was documented many times that jop duties sometimes change even before starting work, after getting hired. The interview goes in one direction, and the actual job might prove to be different.

So what you described is a bit wider topic than you presumed initially, even though correct.


Are workplace reorganizations that result in a change in job duties without employee consent a violation of the original job contract?

Well, it depends on the exact wording of the contract. If the contract merely states "software engineering", then a large number of tasks can be performed under this title. So the department can reorganize many times in many ways, without any breach.

If the contract uses specific wording, then changes without consent might be a violation, based on the locally applicable laws and regulations.


I can imagine how my supervisor would feel if I told him "There's been a reorg, I'm no longer going to do x, instead I'm working on y now."

Well, if the manager was not introduced to jokes, you might need to swim in hot waters after saying that. Otherwise, the manager might just welcome a good smile / laugh.


but that places the burden on the employee

That is called life, whether private or professional. Everything will feel like a burden, especially if it is not welcome.


Options

  1. Just go along with the e-organization.
  2. Discuss with your manager to find a job in the company which does not violate the contract.
  3. Find a job that you like outside the company, and move ahead. However, the contract will be different, and it carries a burden also.

Changes are sometimes good. We feel them a a burden if we are not prepared.

A very good book (funny, easy to read and small, as well as helpful) is "Who Moved My Cheese" by Spencer Johnson. It is a great read, which would help almost anyone. It might even help you, if you give it a chance.

I already introduced this book to my colleagues at work, and they were all equally impressed and satisfied with its contents.

I am not a manager, and they read it as their own option / decision.

2

The key point is to look what is written in your work contract. If it is very specific about your role than you only have to do what is described there. It is a lot more common though that the job description is very general, so you usually have to go along with changes in the organization.

That being said, your job has to at least roughly fit your qualification. If you were hired as a software engineer there are lot of software tasks they can assign to you but they can't just put you in HR (or vice versa). If your previous role was in house in the office and your new roles requires you to travel through the country to different customers this also looks tricky and legality might depend on the fine print your contract (This paragraph is probably somewhat jurisdiction dependent, in general in Western Europe employers can get away with less than in the US).

  • If that offer letter is all OP has and it takes the place of a work contract, then OP can check that. It seems legally equivalent to a work contract. – quarague Nov 14 '19 at 12:46

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.