Work ‘Em ‘Till They Drop
Or It’s One, Two, Three, What Are You Fightin’ For?
You’re a hard working Joe in
While the masters in
Can you spell 24/7?
According to the Alaskan Department of Labor:
“10. What is the law regarding breaks and meal periods?
Alaskan employers are required to provide break periods of at least 30 minutes for minors ages 14 – 17 who work 5 or more consecutive hours. Employers are not required to give breaks for employees 18 and over. If your employer allows breaks, and they last less than 20 minutes, you must be paid for the break. If your employer allows meal periods, the employer is not required to pay you for your meal period if it lasts more than 20 minutes and you do no work during that time.”2
“5. Do I have to work overtime if I don't want to?
Your employer may order you to work overtime and may discipline or terminate you if you refuse to work it. Unless your work is exempt from overtime, your employer must pay you 1 ½ times your regular rate of pay for hours worked over 8 per day or 40 straight-time hours per week, whichever occurs.”2
That’s right. Twenty-four hours a day until you drop without a break or meal break.
I know. I have worked for thirty-two hours straight on
the docks of
But wait! Everyone knows that you’re entitled to breaks
right? I mean it’s so humane and common sense and safe and fair.
While the following facts may make you want to go out and immediately burn down DC and hang all of the varmints, the cold reality is that there are no Federal labor laws that require employers to make time for employees to take work breaks or eat meals.3,4,5,6
The U.S. Department of Labor enforces the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which sets basic minimum wage and overtime pay standards. These standards are enforced by the Department's Wage and Hour Division, a program of the Employment Standards Administration.
From the U.S. Department of Labor’s Website3:
“When must breaks and meal periods be given?
The FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act) does not require breaks or meal periods be given to workers.”3
Why the hell not?
However, all is not lost. Twenty states do have laws that include some sort of provisions for work breaks for certain occupations,4,7 Table 1. That leaves a full thirty states that still live in the Dark Ages and need to be dragged kicking and screaming into the twenty-first century. But beware. Many of these states that do have break laws limit coverage and have weak protection,4,7 (hope you like working five or six hours straight until you get a break).
What? You want to have breaks and a meal break to be able to eat too? You lazy thing.
Only seven states specifically require a rest break in
addition to a meal break for adults.6,7
The good state of
To check and see if you’re a lucky employee living in a state that grants break or meal times and see the conditions required for breaks, consult Table 17 and reference (4) below. Many of the states that do provide for break or meal times cover only certain occupations and frequently leave out other occupations in which people obviously have easy jobs which don’t require breaks such as agriculture and mining.
To obtain the current status of laws regarding breaks or meal times, contact the individual states’ Departments of Labor.12,13
And while we’re on this topic of work rights, if you’ve recovered enough to take another shocker, get this. Unbelievably, there are no Federal laws regulating the number of hours that you can be required to work per day or per week.14,15,16
That’s right. Work ‘em till they drop, boyo.
However, working hours are federally regulated for some occupations e.g., transportation workers, train engineers, air traffic controllers and airline pilots.17,18
Thank God. Wouldn’t you just want airline pilots to work three days straight without a break, like you can be forced to under Federal law?
Starting to feel like you’re living in the eighteenth century?
It just keeps getting better. Well, you think. Didn’t
In general, no federal law limits the number of hours an
adult may work in a day or the number of days in a week. While some states have
laws requiring a day of rest or observation each week, astonishingly
Yes, that’s right. In the honorable state of
Many states do have laws limiting the number of hours that certain categories of workers and professions may work,18 Table 2. Of course, the hardest working Joes, those employed in agriculture or fishing, are usually, strangely exempt from protection.
There are seven states in which some employees must receive one day off from work out of every seven (essentially, one day a week). These states are listed below6 and noted in Table 2. Frequently, this required day off arises from an historical religious basis. You get a day off if you’re willing to spend it worshipping a god.
Fortunately, with an increasing awareness of the dangers of overworking healthcare workers, fifteen states now prohibit mandatory overtime for nurses.21 But, hmmm. That apparently leaves thirty-five states that don’t. Oh, well, the next time you’re in the hospital keep an eye on your nurse and make sure she’s at least semi-coherent.
Do you need a nurse now that you’re feeling sick to your stomach after reading this? Well, as far as federal law goes, unless the employee has a condition that qualifies under the FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) or ADA (American with Disabilities Act) the employer is under no legal obligation to grant sick days or approve time off for illness.22,23
Yeah, that’s right. You can be required to work even if you’re possessed by a demon and puking your guts out like Linda Blair.
But wait! What about the FMLA? Think you’re eligible to be covered under the FMLA?
“An FMLA eligible employee is an employee who has been employed by the employer for at least 12 months and worked at least 1,250 hours. The 12 months do not need to be consecutive. You are only an eligible employee if your employer employs 50 or more employees within 75 miles of the worksite.”23,24 But, but but, your bottom lip quivers, I don’t work with 50 people. Too bad, how sad.
Now that you’re staring glassy eyed out the window after reading these facts and now that you understand very clearly what the aristocracy thinks of you, how about this?
The Labor Law in
And, how about them Europeans?
Union's working time directive imposes a 48 hour
maximum working week that applies to every member state except the United
Kingdom (which has an opt-out meaning that UK-based employees can work
longer than 48 hours if they wish, but they cannot be forced to do so). France has
enacted a 35-hour workweek by law, and similar results have
been produced in other countries such as Germany through collective bargaining.
A major reason for the low annual hours worked in
35 hours a week for those know-nothing frogs?
Four to six weeks of holiday as standard for those other Eurotrash lazy so and so’s?
What’s going on here?
It’s high time to demand that we stop being treated like some farm animal or factory farmed chicken. Let your local legislators know that if they don’t enact work laws protecting the American worker they’re the ones who will be getting a long break.
If all of this sticks in your craw, I suggest the next
time the Feds arm you and set you out in some desert somewhere to bring freedom
and democracy, but evidently not humane labor laws, to someone who really
doesn’t seem to like you, consider which way you should point that gun. After
all, that guy you’ve been sent to liberate probably
gets meal and break times and probably lots of break times to pray to
Other good sources for information regarding state labor laws can be found in references (27), and (28).
Table 2 presented below is a general guide to state policies regarding apparent mandatory overtime and maximum work hours allowed. The individual states’ Departments of Labor13,27,28 should be contacted for current, comprehensive and definitive statements on these issues.
TABLE 2: Mandatory Overtime Laws
Legislation limiting mandatory overtime for nurses in
The law also provides for not less than 10 consecutive hours of off-duty time immediately following a nurse's regularly scheduled shift. Health care facilities other than a primary care outpatient facility will be required to file semiannual reports with the Division of Labor Standards and Safety of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development that includes for each nurse employed or under contract with the facility the number of overtime hours worked and the number of hours the nurse was on call (Alaska H.B. 50, L. 2010, enacted July 7, 2010, effective in part July 1, 2010 (for filing reports) and January 1, 2011).
Exceptions: This mandatory overtime restriction would not apply when a nurse is on duty in overtime status because of a medical procedure or surgery in progress; an unforeseen emergency situation that would otherwise jeopardize patient safety; because of unforeseen weather conditions that would prevent a second nurse from arriving to relieve the nurse on duty; temporary nurse staffing emergencies at a health care facility in a rural area (must be declared in writing and limited to 30 days); a nurse fulfilling agreed-upon on-call time, unless such would create an unacceptable safety risk; a nurse voluntarily working overtime that does not exceed 14 consecutive hours; a nurse working an occasional special school-related or educational event sponsored by the employer for more than 14 hours, such as a field trip; voluntary overtime on an aircraft used for medical transport, so long as the shift worked is allowable under Board of Nursing regulations; a nurse working voluntarily beyond 80 hours in a 14-day period, provided the nurse does not work more than 14 consecutive hours without a 10-hour break and the work is consistent with professional standards and safe patient care; a nurse employed at a residential psychiatric treatment hospital or center who voluntarily agrees to work a 16-hour shift between 5:00 p.m. on Friday and 8:00 a.m. on Monday and receives pay and benefits for work equal or greater than the pay the nurse would receive for working 20 regular hours in the same position, and does not work a shift of 16 consecutive hours with another shift of eight hours or more without an intervening break of at least eight hours; or to the first two hours on overtime status when the health care facility is obtaining another nurse to work in place of the nurse on overtime status, so long as the nurse working overtime does not work more than 14 consecutive hours.
Authors note: Note the exemptions and the specifics of this law.
Massachusetts Sunday work regulated, One day in seven off law, other limitations see http://www.mass.gov/legis/laws/mgl/149-34.htm, http://www.laborlawtalk.com/archive/index.php/t-84240.html, http://blog.laborlawtalk.com/2006/11/24/massachusetts-mandatory-overtime-laws/
Missouri Only certain industries, otherwise no law http://www.moga.mo.gov/statutes/C200-299/2900000010.HTM, http://www.laborlawtalk.com/archive/index.php/t-88669.html, http://www.cga.ct.gov/2001/rpt/olr/htm/2001-r-0061.htm., http://blog.laborlawtalk.com/2006/11/24/missouri-mandatory-overtime-laws/
Employees cannot be discharged or penalized for refusing to
work any Sunday or
otherwise no law but, see b) http://www.stateovertimelaw.us/Texas.html, http://www.laborlawtalk.com/showthread.php?t=81080,
b) Retail employees one day in seven http://www.laborlawtalk.com/archive/index.php/t-77025.html
Wisconsin In factories and mercantile establishments, Wisconsin sets limits in which employees must have one day of rest somewhere in a seven-day work week, by the “One Day of Rest in Seven” law http://www.dwd.state.wi.us/ER/labor_standards_bureau/publication_erd_8298_pweb.htm#12 otherwise apparently only specific laws: http://www.dwd.state.wi.us/ER/labor_standards_bureau/publication_erd_8298_pweb.htm
With apologies to Country Joe and the Fish…
And it’s one, two, three, what are you fightin’ for
Do ask me
I do give a damn
Next stop is Uncle Sam