Employees who feel they work longer than normal hours, or whose employers keep them kept after a scheduled shift ends, may wonder if it is legal. According to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), there is no ceiling on how many hours per day or week that workers 16 years old and over can be made to work. However, employees rights' are still looked after under other laws.
The FLSA is one of the laws administered by the U.S. Department of Labor. Although the FLSA does not set a limit on the number of hours an employee has to work, it does require that workers receive reasonable compensation for their time. Per 40 hours a week, a covered employee must be paid at least the federal minimum wage. For time worked beyond 40 hours, a non-exempt employee must receive one-half times his regular rate of pay.
Seasonal or migrant workers often work long hours in sometimes difficult conditions. However, they are looked after by the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (MSPA). The MSPA ensures that workers keep receiving the pay they were promised when they were hired. This avoids employers performing a bait-and-switch tactic, wherein they recruit workers at a premium and later decrease the pay.
Although employees may not wish to work long hours or overtime on weekends or holidays, the FLSA does not distinguish them over other days of the week. Employers are under no obligation to pay more to employees working on those days. However, if a worker exceeds the 40-hour work week and is working on a weekend or holiday, they are subject to receiving overtime pay as discussed under the FLSA.
Employees may be entitled to time for breaks or mealtimes for which they must be paid. However, the U.S. Department of Labor's FLSA does not require it. Some states have separate laws that cover breaks for workers. Additionally, some companies have private policies that state how long an employee can work without a paid break during or after a shift. Industries that revolve around shift work, like restaurants, usually do not have such a policy.