A Wisconsin state senator is proposing legislation that will lift the state’s law prohibiting a seven-day workweek. Currently the law requires manufacturing and retail employers to give employees
24-hours rest for every seven-day period. Wisconsin is one of only a few states to have laws requiring rest periods for employees in non-healthcare situations. But, the proposed change has raised some issues with employees, unions, and other senators.
The Pros & Cons
The senator argues lifting the ban would allow employees and employers to negotiate their own overtime opportunities and needs. If an employee wants to work a seven-day work week and the employer
is willing, then the employee should have that opportunity. He points out that some employees already work a seven-day week; they just do it by having more than one job. The senator also mentioned that working a seven-day week would be voluntary, and employers could not require it.
However, employees and unions are concerned that employers may find ways around the voluntary portion of the law. For instance, employers could imply that failing to work the overtime would hurt the employee’s job, or employers could also imply that all the other employees are willing to work a seven-day week and not doing so would mean the employee is not a “team player.” Another concern for those against the change is that currently employers that are required to give employees a 24-hour rest period per seven-day week must hire enough staff to cover those days off. However, if an employer can get employees to work overtime, and that overtime is less than what it would cost to hire and train an additional employee, then it is possible employers would hire fewer employees. Interestingly, the vast majority of states have no regulations prohibiting seven-day work weeks, and it would appear that most employers and employees have managed to
negotiate around blatant violations of the country’s overtime laws.
Generally, so long as employers meet federal minimum wage and overtime pay requirements, the U.S. Department of Labor will not step in on a state’s more specific employer requirements. For instance, Washington does not have a law limiting the number of days an employee may work during the week for one employer. It does, however, have state specific overtime laws. The laws require
employers pay at least time-and-a-half for any time worked beyond 40 hours in a seven-day workweek. Overtime in Washington can be mandatory, except in healthcare facilities where regulations limit the number of hours for both the employee and the patient’s safety.
Usually, paying employees’ overtime and having them work excessive hours tends to be more costly than hiring additional part-time employees for most employers.
However, if you feel you have been denied proper overtime pay or are unsure if an employee is due overtime pay, a Washington HKM employment law attorney can help.