Although a 40-hour workweek is typically considered full-time, the US Department of Labor reports that the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), a federal law that defines the basic work laws, including minimum wage and overtime pay for US workers, does not define full-time employment nor part-time employment. In New York, just like in other states, every employer can use their own discretion to define what constitutes employment as full-time or part-time in their company.
Is There a Limit on Working Hours in New York?
The New York State Department of Labor does not limit the number of hours employees can work per day. This means employers may legally ask their employees to work shifts of eight, ten, twelve, or more hours each day. By law, every organization has the legal right and ability to designate shift lengths and change them if necessary.
New York employers are also not restricted to a 40-hours work week. This means that employers have the authority to require employees to work more than 40 hours in any given workweek. However, the laws allow for overtime pay if an employee has worked more than 40 hours in a workweek and require employers to pay them more for every hour in excess of ten that they work in a day.
Employers also have the legal ability to require employees to work any shift and any hours throughout the day or night. It is up to each business to set standard shift hours and decide the number of shifts in operation every day. Employers also have the right to terminate or reassign any employee who refuses to work an assigned shift.
Employers are also required to give employees that work a full shift or more than six hours at least one uninterrupted 30-minute lunch break, though they don’t have to pay for this lunch break. All of these laws apply only to adult employees (over the age of 18). Underage children are limited in the number of working hours and the time of day in which they can be required to work.
Are There Any Exceptions to the Rule?
Although there is no limit on how early an adult employee can start working or how late in the day they can work, there are some exceptions to this rule. The One Day Rest in Seven requires that employers give their employees 24 hours to rest per workweek in specific places of employment, such as: factories, restaurants (except small, rural restaurants), mercantile establishments, hotels (except resort/seasonal hotels), or in professions like an elevator operator, watchman, janitor, farmworker, or superintendent.
These are just some examples of employees who must receive a 24-hour (one whole day) break during each workweek. However, it is important to note that other employees qualify and that even some employees in the mentioned categories may not qualify based on their specific employment situations and employers. The number of work hours for employees in these occupations isn’t limited, even if they have the right to One Day Rest in Seven. Employees are free to work more than 40 hours in a workweek, and if they do, employers are required to pay them for overtime.
The Ten-Hour Rule
If an employee works more than ten hours in a single day or works a split shift, a New York Labor Law requires that the employer pay an extra hour for each hour in excess of ten hours that an employee works. For example, if an employee works eleven hours, their employer must pay them for twelve hours. This ten-hour spread of hours counts the breaks, including lunch breaks. For example, if an employee is scheduled for eleven hours of work but takes a one-hour unpaid lunch break, their employer must pay them for eleven hours – the ten they’ve worked and the extra hour because they were scheduled to be on-site for eleven hours.
How does New York State Quantify Overtime?
Even though the Fair Labor Standards Act does not limit the number of hours an employee can work in a workweek, the New York State Labor Law does regulate mandatory overtime, including mandatory overtime for nurses and other healthcare workers.
Mandatory overtime is the number of overtime working hours an employer may require the employee to do. For some nonexempt professions, such as white-collar employees, there is no limit to how many hours per work week they can work overtime as long as they are appropriately compensated for it. In contrast, New York Labor Laws provide additional protections to healthcare and manual labor workers to regulate their compulsory overtime.
Mandatory Overtime for Nurses
Given the current pandemic times and a nationwide shortage of nurses, it is common practice for hospitals and clinics to request that their staff work overtime. While this can be an effective solution to a nursing shortage, it can also cause a number of issues like nurses risking becoming burned out, stressed, and tired if they take on too much overtime.
Unfortunately, nurses are often required to work twelve or fifteen consecutive hours, sometimes with little notice beforehand. This amount of work can lead to an increased risk of medical errors while the quality of care decreases, and with it the nurse’s job satisfaction. Nurses can even risk losing their license because of the medical errors they commit due to their mental and/or physical fatigue.
When nurses are asked to work beyond the hours agreed in their contract, that time is known as mandatory overtime. For most nurses, overtime means exceeding 40 hours per workweek. Overtime laws cover professional and licensed practical nurses who provide patient care or work for specific healthcare employers. New York mandatory overtime regulations prohibit nurses from working more than the number of predetermined and scheduled hours they’ve agreed to work in a workweek.
However, this doesn’t apply just to nurses in hospitals. Those working in nursing homes, diagnostic centers, outpatient clinics, rehabilitation hospitals, residential facilities, adult day healthcare programs, and others are also protected. The only time an employer can require a nurse to work overtime is when there is a medical care emergency.
Child Labor Hours in New York
New York State has strict child labor laws regarding how many hours minors may work per day and week. Minors under 16 years of age may work 8 hours per day, 40 per week, 6 days out of the week when school is off. Children under 16 years of age may work 3 hours per day and up to 18 hours per week during a school week.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is a federal body that regulates the safety of commercial motor vehicles. It defines the number of hours that bus and truck drivers can work in a day or workweek. For example, passenger-carrying drivers may drive 10 hours at most after 8 straight hours off duty, while property-carrying drivers may drive 11 hours at most after a 10 consecutive hour break. Both of these groups of drivers are not allowed to drive for more than 60 hours in seven consecutive days.
For most professions, neither federal nor New York Labor laws provide a maximum number of hours for an employee to work. The sole exceptions to this overtime rule are blue-collar workers who are required to have one whole day of rest in seven and nurses who are prohibited from working more than the number of hours per workweek they’ve agreed to work. Bus and truck drivers have a specific number of hours in a day and workweek to work without rest.
While it is true that employers can require their employees to work more than 40 hours per week, it is also true that employees must be compensated at the predetermined overtime rate for all hours worked in excess of 40 in a given workweek.
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