Is working 48 hours straight legal?

I work 24 hour shifts in healthcare. Recently, my employer started a mandatory overtime that requires you to sometimes work 48 hours straight. Is there any wrong to this? What if the second 24 hours is considered unsafe for the patients, co-workers and myself?

Asked on February 17, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, South Carolina

Answers:

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

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Unless your occupation is specifically exempted, in the majority of states, there is no limit on how many hours in a row that an employee can be made to work. In other words, unless you are a resident/intern in a hospital, an airline pilot, trunk driver or the like, you can be scheduled for however many hours/days in a row as your employer mandates. While it may not be the safest situation for those concerned and therefore not advisable, it is legal. The fact is that in an "at will" employment arrangement a company can set the conditions of employment much as it sees fit. Therefore, this action is legal unless it violates company policy or the terms of a union agreement or employment contract. Also, it must not constitute some form of actionable discrimination. That having been said, if you are a non-exempt worker, you are eligible for overtime pay for any hours worked over 40 in a week.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

No, it is perfectly legal. Outside of a very few, specifically regulated professions (e.g. truck drivers; airline pilots) there are no limits on how many hours or in a row an employer can require you to work. If there is an injury because of excessive hours it's possible that the employer may be liable--but that is an after-the-fact remedy. Looking foward, you can be required to work 48 hours in a row.


IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.