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My bosses changed their minds about working remotely for good – can they do that?

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Last year, my employer said that I could work remotely permanently, but now that staff are returning to the office, they are saying I have to come back too. I’ve set up my life around the promise that I could work remotely. Can they change their minds like that?

The short answer is, generally, yes. Employers can change the terms and conditions of employment. An exception would be if there were a collective bargaining agreement in place where they couldn’t be changed without mutual agreement. Assuming that isn’t the case, your best recourse is to try to make the case that you can be just as productive working from home. Alternatively, ask for a flexible schedule, or a long enough transition back to the office so that you can accommodate the different situation. Otherwise, start looking for another job. Such a material change would entitle you to unemployment insurance and whatever severance pay and benefits the company offers for people whose positions were eliminated.

Your advice about not hiring someone who showed up to an interview smelling like pot shows how little you understand the health benefits of cannabis. Your timing couldn’t have been worse, since New York has moved to legalize weed. Isn’t your advice not to consider an applicant who smells like legal substance discrimination?

Alcohol, cigarettes and cheap cologne are also legal, but I can refuse to hire someone who showed up in an interview reeking of those products. It’s about offending the olfactory senses as a result of a personal choice of product use, not about what someone does on their personal time that’s medicinal and doesn’t interfere with work. Even if pot (sorry, cannabis for you enlightened purists) becomes legal, it doesn’t mean you can show up to work high, just like you can’t show up to work drunk.

Oh, and by the way, I received a ton of “fan mail” expressing disagreement on this topic. For all of the health benefits of cannabis that you all tout, including its efficacy as a stress reliever, given the level of hostility, I wonder if you all need to change suppliers and get a better product?

Gregory Giangrande has over 25 years of experience as a chief human resources executive and is dedicated to helping New Yorkers get back to work. E-mail your questions to Follow Greg on Twitter: @greggiangrande and at

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