Can I be fired for not tak­ing on a new role?

Work­ers asked to do new tasks dur­ing pan­demic

USA TODAY US Edition - - MONEY -

Johnny C. Tay­lor Jr., a hu­man re­sources ex­pert, is tack­ling your ques­tions as part of a se­ries for USA TODAY. Tay­lor is pres­i­dent and CEO of the So­ci­ety for Hu­man Re­source Man­age­ment, the world’s largest HR pro­fes­sional so­ci­ety.

The ques­tions are sub­mit­ted by read­ers, and Tay­lor’s an­swers be­low have been edited for length and clar­ity.

Q. I’m a server at a restau­rant. Due to COVID-19, we have been closed for dine-in the last 7 weeks. In turn, I haven’t been get­ting sched­uled. The restau­rant is re­open­ing soon. Our em­ployer is ask­ing all staff to come in and work a manda­tory 30 hours a week to clean, paint and sand ta­bles to get the restau­rant ready. If we do not ac­cept this new role, they said, we will be ter­mi­nated. Can my com­pany fire us for not ac­cept­ing a new role, one that we weren’t even hired for?

Johnny C. Tay­lor, Jr.: I un­der­stand your con­cerns about tak­ing on du­ties be­yond what you were hired to do. But the re­al­ity is, you could be let go if you’re un­will­ing to take on new or un­ex­pected tasks. The key phrase here is “other du­ties as as­signed,” which is found in most job de­scrip­tions.

In most cases, em­ploy­ers de­pend on their em­ploy­ees to chip in and do what’s nec­es­sary to keep their busi­ness run­ning and, in your case, pre­pare to re­open. In fact, more than 1 in 5 small busi­ness own­ers have asked their em­ploy­ees to learn new skills to sup­port changes in their busi­ness model.

While your ques­tion had a sim­ple an­swer, I would en­cour­age you to see the up­side. For starters, you still have a job – some­thing mil­lions of other Amer­i­can work­ers can’t say. Se­condly, your restau­rant is re­open­ing and your hours are re­turn­ing. And, lastly, these re­spon­si­bil­i­ties could be a great ca­reer op­por­tu­nity.

Though we like talk­ing about it, hu­man be­ings hate change – and we know most don’t like adding things to their “To Do” list. So, if you rise to the oc­ca­sion by be­ing flex­i­ble and ag­ile, you will stand out and it could pay off.

Af­ter all, re­open­ing safely and suc­cess­fully is a ma­jor un­der­tak­ing, and your boss may be look­ing for some­one to man­age staff or cer­tain projects. So, yes, you may have more work, but this ‘bur­den’ could be a bless­ing in dis­guise. I wish you the best!

Ques­tion: A graphic de­sign com­pany just of­fered me a new job, and I’m lean­ing to­ward tak­ing it, but they don’t of­fer any health in­surance ben­e­fits. Is that le­gal?

Johnny C. Tay­lor, Jr.: First, con­grat­u­la­tions on the job of­fer! While health care in­surance is an im­por­tant ben­e­fit, it is le­gal for an em­ployer to not of­fer these ben­e­fits.

As it stands, there is no spe­cific law re­quir­ing em­ploy­ers to pro­vide em­ploy­ees with health in­surance – par­tic­u­larly if you work for a com­pany with 50 full­time em­ploy­ees or fewer.

How­ever, just be­cause the com­pany doesn’t pro­vide health in­surance for this role doesn’t mean you can’t ac­cess cov­er­age and care.

The Af­ford­able Care Act cre­ated health ex­changes in most states where in­di­vid­u­als can pur­chase their own health in­surance plans.

But that’s not your only op­tion. You might be able to ob­tain health in­surance through a spouse, part­ner, or fam­ily mem­ber. Sim­i­larly, those un­der age 26 may be cov­ered un­der a par­ent’s plan.

If you had cov­er­age with your for­mer em­ployer, you could be el­i­gi­ble to con­tinue with health in­surance un­der CO­BRA for up to 18 months. Some car­ri­ers may of­fer plans that you can turn into an in­di­vid­ual, pri­vate plan.

Lastly, you could find pri­vate health in­surance plan dis­counts through a pro­fes­sional or trade as­so­ci­a­tion mem­ber­ship. If none of the above work for you, check as­so­ci­a­tions within your in­dus­try to see if any of­fer such dis­counts or other health care op­tions.

Start­ing a new job is ex­cit­ing, but be­fore you take the next step, share your con­cerns with the com­pany re­gard­ing the lack of in­surance ben­e­fits. You never know. They may be in the process of es­tab­lish­ing an em­ployer-spon­sored plan. Or, if they don’t plan to of­fer cov­er­age in the fu­ture, you could ne­go­ti­ate for higher pay, or per­haps other ben­e­fits, to com­pen­sate.

Good luck with your po­ten­tial new job!

Johnny C. Tay­lor


Can your em­ployer fire you for not tak­ing on a new role dur­ing the pan­demic? The an­swer may lie within your orig­i­nal job de­scrip­tion.

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