Most employees, by the very nature of the contracts they sign, are in the business of performing various tasks for those who pay them. In general, a strong employment contract will list all of those responsibilities, expectations, codes of conduct, safety norms, and more. Through this transactional relationship, work gets done, and compensation is given.

But it’s important to remember that no matter how professional you are, how effective you can be, or how well-meaning your natural personality is, you are not expected to do everything. A janitor might work at a hospital, yes, but they aren’t expected to perform life-saving surgery if the hospital is understaffed.

This may seem obvious. In other jobs, the line between what you’re contracted to do and what you’re expected to do can blur. Now, is this always a problem? Not really. Maybe a bartender has no problem working as a dishwasher during the quiet periods of the day. But in some cases, refusing to do a task outside of your remit is not only acceptable, it’s advisable.

So, when should you refuse a task at work? Let’s consider that, below:

Too Many Work Assignments

We all want to be team players and take on what’s asked of us, because it’s fun to engage and do our jobs. However, there are limits to how much any one person can reasonably handle. If you’re being bombarded with so many assignments and tasks that you’re feeling overwhelmed and on the verge of burning out, it’s okay to speak up. Pushing yourself to the breaking point benefits no one, and makes you bitter. Explain your struggles politely but firmly to your manager – a good employer wants to avoid overtaxing their workers. If they don’t care, well, that’s a sign this position might not be the healthiest to stay in, and you may have a case to press against them.

Danger & Safety Failings

Your personal safety should always come first. If you’re being asked to operate heavy machinery you aren’t certified for, handle hazardous materials without safety equipment (or without training), or put yourself in clearly dangerous situations, you have every right to refuse. Worksites are always supposed to comply with health and safety regulations. Risking injury on the job is never worth it. Voice your concerns and don’t back down if supervisors pressure you. Note that this even applies to the seemingly little things, like being in a loud area for long periods with no hearing protection. You’ll feel less “dramatic” if you read occupational hearing loss risks. Remember, you deserve safety. Those rules have been written in misfortune, and it doesn’t need to happen to you.

Inadequate Legal Protections

While the technicalities do matter, it doesn’t particularly matter if accounting practices, discrimination issues, or anything else you suffer is the inadequate care you’ve had, from a legal perspective, it’s all wrong. illegal or unethical, you can’t be forced to engage in unlawful activities at work no matter what. Employment contracts and company policies still have to follow the letter of the law. If something seems blatantly illegal, or you’re being told to hide or misrepresent information improperly, you’re within your rights to refuse participation without retaliation, and we’d recommend that you escalate the issue outside of the workplace.

With this advice, you’ll be sure to refuse a task and remain within your very right to do so.