Is it legal to make an employee work 7 days of 12 hour shifts?

Currently, my husband works for a manufacturing company that has recently changed employee hours to 12 hour shifts, 2 days on, 2 days off, working every other weekend. However, they do not have enough employees to cover all 3 shifts, lately some have been required to work 7 days of 12 hour shifts. Can the employee decline to work those extra days?

Asked on July 22, 2015 under Employment Labor Law, Iowa


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

Yes, it is legal. The fact is that the law does not require that an employee have a day off or limit how many hours they may work (with some exceptions for health care workers, pilots, etc.). However, some states do mandate certain break times and/or lunch periods. Also, if he is not an "exempt" employee (an hourly employee and a few salaried), then your husband must be paid overtime whenever he works more than 40 hours in a week.

As for declining the extra hours of work, it depends on whether or not he as protection under an employment contract, union agreement, company policy, etc. If not then he is an "at will" employee. As such his employer can dictate the terms and conditions of the workplace much as it sees fit; this includes how many hours/days that an employee can be made to work. If he fails to comply then he can be termianterd. For his part he has the right to either work the hours or quit. 

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