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Job Bullying and reassignment

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Junior Member
What is the name of your state (only U.S. law)? New Jersey

I work for a large company in the IT (information technology) department, basically computer programming. The company has a has another department, I guess it's a (physical) labor department with employees in the labor union. There is talk of the union going on strike, and the company is making contingency plans for that period of time. The company's plan is to reassign a lot of employees from the IT department to the field to replace the striking union employees. That means having people (myself included), learning safety procedures and learning how to climb poles, lift manholes, work in crawl spaces, and other physical activities that are far from our current jobs today :mad:, while also having to temporary relocate to where the striking unions are in order to do the work :mad:. Anyway, the company has said that we must complete the training (mostly online training) and report for our new assignment every day, or it's a violation of the company's policy, which means job termination. We've also heard it will be 12 hour days 6 days each week (where we work 8 hour days, 5 days a week now) without overtime pay (where we don't get overtime pay now). When the strike is over, we get to come home and go back to our "normal" jobs. No vacation scheduled during this time.

I realize the company has a corporate responsibility for continuity of work. On paper, they move anyone to fill any job. But there are a lot of people in my office that are wondering exactly how they are going to do this work. We sit at desks all day. These are people who don't climb, crawl, or lift very often, and some really can't do these things. Even without those physical limitations, we are being put into some sort of danger just having to handle wiring (based on the different safety "lessons" we're taking as part of our online training, for eye, head, ear, hand, foot protection, ladder, live wire safety, etc).

Are there any laws being broken here :confused:? It doesn't seem right that your employer can say that your job location and/or function (really every classification of the job function/industry/type) are changed, even if it's temporary. Does this violate any laws, any set of employee rights or civil rights or anything like that? I look at this as my company bullying its employees by making us do whatever they tell us to do, even if it's far from what we were hired for, with the threat of losing our jobs if we don't comply. We are also, in a way, supporting the company in a dispute against the union who is fighting for a lot of things the company has already taken away from us (personally, i support the union in their fight because they can fight for things that we can't).

From reading other posts, I've seen that things are legal because there isn't a law stopping it, but there are so many issues here - crossing union picket lines, job industry change, employee safety, forced relocation, bullying and threatening - that there's no way this is completely legal. Is it? Is there anything we can do, aside from quitting? Quitting or standing up to them by not reporting for the reassignment will put an employee in position to NOT have unemployement money.

If the company reassigns you to perform non-exempt work, then they are responsible for paying you for any overtime you work at the non-exempt task. Should this happen and you don't get paid overtime, contact the Department of Labor.

If the company fires you for not being able to work in this new capacity, then you should definitely file for unemployment.
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Junior Member
I should admit that the hours for the reassignment I've heard from colleagues and not an official company source, but it is good to know what they can and can't do. Thanks. I know that the tasks are non-exempt (and pay for OT) because i have a friend here in NJ, in the union but a different company, who works OT to get the extra money, and this type of thing within the union wouldn't be different from one company to another.

I would like to go down the path of "not being able to work" the assignment with the company so that I don't have to do it. I do see a lot of workers' comp. lawsuits waiting to happen in my office from this, and I hate to see it happen. I have heard that the company isn't lenient about exceptions to the assignment, but it's all 2nd and 3rd hand info, or even further removed from "official" policy. Even if the company refused to reassign someone to non-physical strike replacement work (there are unions going on strike who perform non-physical work too that they need to fill), and an injury does occur, I'm sure that fact would play in favor of the injured in the workers' comp. case.

I do wonder if there's anything in my favor if I ask (and maybe get a doctor to back me up) to be moved to a non-physical task, the company refuses, and then i either quit or get fired for refusing to do the task rather than face certain injury. I did see this link about intolerable working conditions on this site - Intolerable working conditions - can I challenge my job loss as if I was fired? - that may work in the favor of employees.

I just can't believe that it's actually legal for a company to bully around employees like this. Quitting is always an option, but unemployment isn't available if you quit, and a lot of times, you lose the years of service towards vacation, retiree benefits, etc., and people feel forced into staying because of that.


Senior Member
Your employer can ask you to do any job that suits their business needs. If you refuse, and you do not have a documented disability that prevents you from being able to do the job, that is insubordination and you can legally be fired.


Senior Member
I'm sure it sucks for them too. I'm sure they would rather have you doing the job they hired you for, but desperate times etc. Also you are listening to a lot of rumors here.


I'm a Northern Girl
Just a minute - when an exempt employee works at a non-exempt job, whether they are due overtime or not depends on HOW MUCH non-exempt work they do. If you are PRIMARILY still doing exempt work, then overtime is not due. If you are PRIMARILY doing non-exempt work, then it is.
One very sucky thing they can do is to cut your salary in half, so that when you start getting paid overtime for doing the extra hours, the end effect is that your paycheck stays roughly the same. (This is subject to the reduced salary still being above minimum wage.)

I recall IBM did this a while back when they reclassified some exempt employees as non-exempt.


Junior Member
funny. I had that same thought - about the salary being changed so that working THEIR hours during the temporary assignment would result in MY normal pay. my employer is strikes me as the type that would do that.

bottom line is that the employer can do whatever they want, with a few restrictions, but they can go way beyond the threshold of a company you want to work for.

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