Can an employer require a salaried $40,000 a year employee to work 24/7 for 5 months?

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Can an employer require a salaried $40,000 a year employee to work 24/7 for 5 months?

Is it legal to force me to work 24/7 (that was there exact words). I work for a union as an organizer. I was told yesterday that I am in campaign mode now and must work 24/7 to reach an impossible goal of members for the next 5 months. They have already said I cannot count any weekend as comp time unless I work 2 consecutive weekends. I am salaried at $40,000 a year and find that what they are expecting is impossible. Can they really make you work that many hours when you are salaried. I am expected to work all day and then do home visits at night, and campaining all weekend.

Asked on June 14, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Washington

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

If you are salaried and also exempt from overtime (many or most salaried employees are, but being salaried by itself does not automatically make you exempt), then you can be required to work 24/7 for months at a time without additional pay. Your salary is your compensation for all work you do during the year; and if exempt, you are not entitled to extra pay for hours worked above 40 in a week.

If you are salaried but not exempt, you would get additional compensation for hours worked past 40 in a workweek--it  can be difficult to calculate this for a salaried person, so if you feel this may be the case, you should speak to an employment law attorney and/or contact the state labor department.

To see if you would be exempt, go to the website for the federal Department of Labor (DOL) and look under "wages and hours," then under "overtime" to find the tests for exemption. To be exempt, you must  be paid on a salaried basis and also meet one or more of the tests. The main ones for you, if you are a union organizer, would probably be the "executive" (which would be better called the "managerial") or the "administrative" exemptions/tests, though you should probably also check the "professional" test if you have an advanced degree or training.

Note also that if you have an employment contract of any kind guarantying you certain additional pay or comp time or other benefits, that contract is enforceable, and your employer must give you what you are entitled to under it.


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