Working a night shift in any job can be difficult. Some people might have a hard time working nights and sleeping days, and thus might suffer from fatigue during prolonged stretches of night shifts. Employees might also experience feelings of isolation from family members and friends who have more typical schedules. However, labor laws do not recognize these issues as worthy of higher pay rates.
The Fair Labor Standards Act, the national labor and employment law, does not require employers to pay higher wages for employees who work night shifts. The pay can be the same as for employees who perform equivalent work during the day. Employers have the right to schedule employees for any number of hours at any time of the day.
The U.S. Department of Labor, which administers the provisions of the FLSA, states that extra pay for working nights is up to employers or subject to agreement between employers and employees' representatives. The subject of premium pay for night shifts is a potential topic in collective bargaining for employees who are members of labor unions. Employers must follow the terms of these agreements and can change the terms only through negotiations, not unilaterally.
Employers owe additional wages to most employees who work night shifts if their work qualifies as overtime, according to FLSA provisions. This rule also applies to most employees who work daytime hours. Labor in excess of 40 hours per week constitutes overtime, for which compensation must be at least 1.5 times an employee's hourly pay. If an employer chooses to pay higher wages to employees who work nights, and those employees work overtime hours, the employer would owe them 1.5 times the night-shift wage.
The lack of requirements regarding higher wages for working night shifts also extends to work during other "off hours." Employers do not owe premium pay to employees who work weekends or holidays, either, unless those hours meet the standard definition of overtime. Employers can require an employee to work a night shift on Christmas Eve or Christmas, for example, and pay only the employee's regular wage. The only mandates in the FLSA regarding compensation are to pay at least the minimum wage and overtime when it applies.
Jeffrey Nichols has been writing and editing since 1997. His work has appeared in the "Manassas (Va.) Journal Messenger" as well as daily publications in Pennsylvania and Illinois, covering sports, recreation, health and fitness, along with business and finance. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree and enjoys writing everything from practical articles to fiction.