by Lonnie Golden and Helene Jorgensen Over the last two decades, American workers have been clocking more and more hours on the job, and they now work more hours than workers in any other industrialized country.Annual work hours are 4% higher than they were in 1980, amounting to an extra 1 hour and 30 minutes at work per week, on average (ILO 1999).
In virtually every industry within the bellweather manufacturing sector, overtime had reached a record by the end of the 1990s.The growth in overtime work, while helping to drive the healthy growth in output in the U. It is taking its toll not only on workers, but on their families, communities, and, ultimately in many cases, patients, customers, and employers.Families burdened by longer work hours are more likely to find it difficult to balance the conflicting demands of work and family.More hours spent at work mean less time with the family, less time to help a child with homework, less time for play, less time for housework, and less time for sleep.These sacrifices can translate into increased risk for accidents and injuries; greater chronic fatigue, stress, and related diseases; reduced parenting and family time; and diminished quality of goods and services – a serious public concern particularly in the health care sector.
The social costs associated with the growth in work hours and persistent overtime are particularly worrisome when the long hours are involuntary.
The tenuous balance between work, family, and other non-work activities is thrown off most when overtime is mandatory (also referred to as “compulsory” or “forced”).
Mandatory overtime hours are those above the standard work week (usually 40) that the employer makes compulsory with the threat of job loss or the threat of other reprisals such as demotion or assignment to unattractive tasks or work shifts.
Given that overtime can have detrimental effects on workers and their families, mandatory overtime is a serious public policy concern, yet current law does not address it.
The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA), which regulates overtime, currently imposes no limits on overtime hours, nor does it prohibit dismissal or any other sanction for declining overtime work.
Rather, the FLSA merely requires that payroll employees (who are not “exempt” from the overtime requirements of the FLSA) be paid an overtime premium of at least one-half of regular rate of pay for each hour worked over 40 during a work week.