US Working Time and 4-day Workweek

February 20th 2024

Overall, federal time management laws are instrumental in ensuring that workers are compensated fairly for their time and effort in the workplace, protecting them from abuse and exploitation by employers.

The Fair Labor Standards Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act are vital federal laws that govern time management and worker compensation, ensuring fair labor practices across various sectors, including non-profit, public, and private organizations.

This article covers:

Federal Laws and Regulations that Govern Employee Working Time in the US

The working hours of employees in the United States are governed by a range of federal laws and regulations.

The federal minimum wage stands at $7.25 per hour, but some states have set higher rates (Download U.S. Minimum Wage 2024 Poster now).

For non-exempt employees, working beyond 40 hours in a week entitles them to receive overtime pay at 1.5 times their regular rate.

While federal law does not mandate employers to provide lunch or coffee breaks, some may opt to offer these breaks as a means to boost productivity. If these breaks are provided, employers must adhere to prescribed break guidelines.

Furthermore, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) sets forth rules concerning the wages, working hours, and safety of minors (individuals under 18 years old) who are employed in jobs covered by this law.

Federal Laws on Overtime in the US

Federal regulations concerning overtime provisions are highlighted in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Unless eligible for an exemption, employees covered by the Act must be compensated for working beyond 40 hours in a workweek at a rate not less than one and a half times their regular pay.

With the regular federal minimum wage set at $7.25 per hour, the federal overtime minimum wage is $10.87 per hour (one and a half times the minimum wage).

The FLSA does not impose a limit on the number of hours employees aged 16 and older can work in a workweek.

It’s essential to recognize that overtime pay is not required for work performed on Saturdays, Sundays, holidays, or regular days of rest unless these days involve overtime hours.

The Act is applied on a workweek basis, which is a fixed and recurring period of 168 hours, equivalent to seven consecutive 24-hour periods. This workweek doesn’t necessarily have to align with the calendar week and can begin on any day and at any hour.

Employers have the flexibility to establish different workweeks for various employees or groups of employees. However, averaging of hours over multiple weeks is not permitted.

Overtime wages earned in a specific workweek, normally, must be paid on the regular payday for the corresponding pay period in which those wages were earned.

Federal Overtime Exceptions and Exemptions in the US

Certain employees are exempted from overtime requirements under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Such employees are generally required to fulfill specific criteria, which includes receiving a salary above a designated threshold and working in particular roles like administrative, professional, executive, computer, or outside sales positions.

The Department of Labor (DOL) has established guidelines to determine eligibility for overtime pay exemption. To be considered exempt, employees must earn a salary of at least $684 per week or $35,568 annually and carry out job duties that align with one of the exempt professions. Highly compensated employees earning $107,432 or more per year are also exempt from overtime pay.

It is crucial to understand that pay alone does not determine an employee’s exempt or non-exempt status, even though it may influence workplace policies. For instance, employers with hourly workers must track time and attendance meticulously for accurate payroll processing. On the other hand, for salaried employees, timekeeping is generally less critical unless there are specific incentives linked to additional hours worked.

Additionally, employers should not assume that employees are automatically exempt under the FLSA solely because they receive a salary. If employees do not meet the appropriate duties test, earn less than $684 per week or $35,568 per year, or experience certain deductions from their salary, they may be eligible for overtime pay.

Hourly employees in certain industries may also be exempt from overtime pay, such as those in agriculture, movie theaters, and railroads, among others.

Download U.S. FLSA Exemption Salary Threshold 2024 Poster now.

US Federal 4-day Workweek

The five-day workweek has been a legal norm in the United States for 80 years now, since Henry Ford was instrumental in establishing this standard with the reduction of the workweek from six to five days at Ford Motor in 1926, partly in response to the labor movement. Further, the Fair Labor Standards Act introduced overtime pay for hours beyond 40 per week in 1940. Since these events, little else has changed regarding the workweek. 

However, in 2023, Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) reintroduced the Thirty-Two Hour Workweek Act, aiming to reduce the standard workweek from 40 to 32 hours by amending the Fair Labor Standards Act at the federal level. This bill proposes overtime pay for any work done beyond 32 hours, encouraging businesses to either pay more for longer hours or adopt shorter workweeks and hire more employees. The proposed legislation applies to non-exempt workers, typically involved in hourly jobs across various industries. 

The legislation and 4-day workweek were initially introduced to Congress by Takano in 2021. Despite receiving the endorsement of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and gaining traction on the internet, it did not progress further in Congress.

The bill’s reintroduction to Congress comes after a successful global pilot program and similar proposals in Maryland and Massachusetts. By sparking discussions and involving stakeholders, it is hoped that this would pave the way for a shorter workweek and its potential benefits for the workforce at large.

Federal Laws on Working Hours for Minors in the US

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) provides directives regarding the wages, working hours, and safety of minors (individuals under 18 years old) employed in occupations governed by the law. 

According to federal law, individuals aged 14-15 have specific restrictions on their work hours. They are not allowed to work more than 8 hours in a day, and on a school day, they can work a maximum of 3 hours only. During school vacations, they can work up to 40 hours per week, but while school is in session, they are limited to 18 hours per week. Furthermore, they are not permitted to work before 7 a.m. or after 7 p.m.

Conversely, there are no federal regulations that set limits on the number of hours individuals aged 16-18 can work. 

However, it’s essential to be aware that individual states have their own labor laws that govern the maximum working hours for minors.

Learn more about US Federal Labor Laws through our detailed guide.

Important Cautionary Note

When making this guide we have tried to make it accurate but we do not give any guarantee that the information provided is correct or up-to-date. We therefore strongly advise you seek advice from qualified professionals before acting on any information provided in this guide. We do not accept any liability for any damages or risks incurred for use of this guide.