Is there a maximum numbers of hours employees can be expected to work in a row?

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Is there a maximum numbers of hours employees can be expected to work in a row?

I work M-F 7:00 am – 3:30 pm in healthcare, 40 hours per week. I also am required to be on call for 10 days a month. For example, on Monday I worked my normal shift but got paged back to work at 3:45 pm had not even left the building yet and was required to work until 2:15 am for a 19 hour work day. I drove 45 mins to home, slept for 2.5 hours and then had to get up to get back to work for the start of my shift the next day. During a weekday, we are required to take call for a 15.5 hour period after a complete shift. For Sat or Sun on-call days, we are on call for a 24 hour period, 7:00 am through 7:00 am the next day. We could get paged at any time for any length of time during this period. My home life is severely restricted – no theater shows, must have child care lined up, can’t even go to the grocery store for fear of being caught with a cart full of frozen items that we can’t get unloaded at home. Time off feels hung over, medicating headaches constantly from erratic sleep. My main concern is the health consequences of never sleeping consistently, flipping day and night hours haphazardly, and being required to drive on very little sleep. I love my job but the hours are killing me. I’m trying to help my children with homework with a groggy, foggy brain from lack of consistent sleep. This is hurting my family too. Is this legal? Can’t a hospital be forced to create standard shifts that cover 24/7 like they do for nurses?

Asked on July 17, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Arizona

Answers:

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

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

No, there is not maximum number of hours that an employee can be scheduled to work in a row. There is unfortunately no upper limit on how many days/hours a company can require an employee to work, outside of a very few industries (airline pilots; truck drivers; firemen, doctors/nurses in a few states) where hours are limited owing to safety concerns. Accordingly, unless your schedule violates an employment contract/union agreement or is the result of actionable discrimination/retaliation, it is entirely legal. You should be aware that if you are a non-exempt employee, then to the extent that you work over 40 hours in a week, you are entitled to OT. If your schedule is not good for you, you can complain but risk termination or quit. I'm afraid that's about it.


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