From the Hotline: Extending 40-Hour Workweek

Question: Are there any wage and hour regulations limiting an exempt, salaried worker to a 40-hour work week? We would like to impose a 48-hour, six-day workweek for our exempt employees.

Answer: Exempt employees are paid for the work they do regardless of the hours actually worked. If an exempt employee is required to work additional hours beyond a traditional 40-hour workweek, the employer is not obligated to pay overtime or any additional compensation.

Part of the rules of exemptions indicate that there is not necessarily a fixed schedule, so if an employer is regularly requiring specific hours, it is recommended that the employer look carefully at the employee’s classification as exempt. An employer should not be using the classification simply to avoid paying for hours actually worked if the nature of the work does not meet exempt classification testing, and is therefore nonexempt.

Section 13(a)(1) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) provides an exemption from both minimum wage and overtime pay for employees employed as bona fide executive, administrative, professional, and outside sales employees. Sections 13(a)(1) and 13(a)(17) also exempt certain computer employees. To qualify for exemption, employees generally must meet certain tests regarding their job duties and be paid on a salary basis at not less than $455 per week. Job titles do not determine exempt status. In order for an exemption to apply, an employee’s specific job duties and salary must meet all the requirements of the Department of Labor’s regulations.

The Department of Labor provides more information on the exemptions for executive, administrative, professional, computer, and outside sales employees. Being paid on a “salary basis” means an employee regularly receives a predetermined amount of compensation each pay period on a weekly, or less frequent, basis. The predetermined amount cannot be reduced because of variations in the quality or quantity of the employee’s work.

While there are no wage and hour regulation prohibiting requiring exempt employees to work 48-hour weeks, there could be employee relations issues for requiring such a schedule as it is outside the norm for American business. In general, many exempt employees work longer hours and weekends to do their jobs without an employer schedule mandating the extra work. Employers considering a mandated longer schedule should consider the needs of the business and the company culture in setting such a mandate.