United States labor laws impose certain requirements on employers, most specifically relating to a minimum wage and the payment of overtime. The laws also leave many employment issues for employers to decide, including most issues relating to scheduling. For the most part, no limits exist regarding the scheduling of overtime and no amount of overtime qualifies as excessive.
The Fair Labor Standards Act, which sets national employment standards, includes specific provisions regarding the payment of overtime. Employers must pay overtime to most hourly wage earners, at a rate of 1.5 times their normal wage, for all labor exceeding 40 hours per week. Employers also owe overtime pay to most salaried employees who do not work in professional, administrative or executive jobs as defined by federal regulations. But the overtime law imposes no limits on the amount of overtime an employer may require employees to work. From a legal standpoint, employers can schedule employees for 24-hour shifts every day of the week as long as they pay the appropriate amount for all overtime hours.
Employers' authority to schedule an employee for any number of overtime hours extends beyond regular work shifts. The Fair Labor Standards Act includes no prohibitions on employers' leeway to require employees to work on weekends and holidays, for example. In addition, the law does not mandate premium pay, such as overtime pay or double-time pay, for employees who work those shifts. An employer would have to pay overtime in those situations only when those hours push an employee's total hours beyond 40 for the week.
At the state level, laws might require employers to set aside one day per week as a day of rest. While these laws do not restrict the number of hours employers can require employees to work on other days, they provide some respite from excessive overtime. The states with laws that require employees to receive at least one day off from work per week are Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York, Maryland, Illinois, North Dakota and California.
The provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act dictate the standards employers must implement at a minimum. Employers are free to institute more favorable policies, including regarding limits on overtime hours. Also, collective bargaining agreements might place limitations on overtime hours. The terms and conditions of these contracts are binding and might state, for example, that employers can schedule employees for no more than 10 overtime hours per week. In some cases, a contract might stipulate that overtime is voluntary.