Generally, it is not illegal for your employer to require you to work 7 days in a week. However, some states forbid this practice. Where it is allowed, you may be entitled to overtime pay.
Does federal law forbid working 7 days in a week?
No, federal law is silent on how many days you can work during a workweek. However, it does entitle non-exempt workers to overtime pay if they work too many hours during the week.
According to regulations under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the workweek is a fixed and regularly recurring period of 168 hours, or 7 consecutive 24-hour periods. It can begin at any point during the calendar week. Different workers for the same employer may have workweeks that do not align. However, once your workweek has been established, it cannot be changed in order to alter the number of hours you work in a week.1
However, the FLSA does not dictate how many days you are allowed to work. It leaves that up to state law and to your employment contract.
What about state labor laws?
State labor laws, however, can make it unlawful for employers to require you to work 7 days in a week. Most states do not have these laws. However, a few do.
Illinois is one state that has such a law. Called the One Day Rest in Seven Act, the law requires employers to give their workers at least 24 consecutive hours of rest every calendar week. Employers can only work their employees for 7 days straight if they get a permit to do so and the worker has agreed to do it. However, the Act does not apply to:
- part-time employees whose total working hours do not exceed 20 in the week,
- mechanics needed to provide emergency service to broken machines in order to prevent injuries, property damage, or work stoppages,
- agricultural workers,
- coal miners,
- seasonal food processing workers,
- security guards,
- tug boat workers, and
- exempt employees.2
A few other states have similar laws. Some of these states include:
- New York,4
- Massachusetts,5 and
However, some of these laws are fairly narrow. The law in Wisconsin only applies to employers who operate a factory or a retail store. All other employers are exempt.
The penalties for violating these laws vary by state. In Illinois, for example, employers who violate the law face a civil penalty of:
- $250 per offense if they have fewer than 25 employees, and
- $500 per offense if they have 25 or more employees.7
The fine is paid to the Department of Labor. The employer also has to pay an equal amount to each employee affected.8
Am I entitled to overtime pay?
Non-exempt workers who work 7 days in a workweek may be entitled to overtime pay. If the federal FLSA does not guarantee it, your state’s employment law might.
The FLSA requires overtime pay for every hour that non-exempt employees work in excess of 40 hours in a workweek.9 However, this is the only circumstance where overtime pay is required. If you work 7 days in a week, but do not work over 40 hours in that week, you are not entitled to overtime pay under the federal FLSA.
For example: Janice works 10 hours on Sunday, but then only 2 hours each day on Monday through Saturday for a total of 22 hours. She is not entitled to overtime pay for any of these hours under the FLSA. The FLSA only provides overtime for more than 40 hours in a workweek. Even though Janice worked 2 hours longer than a normal shift on Sunday, the FLSA does not guarantee overtime.
However, many state laws are more generous with their overtime laws. Some, like California’s, may guarantee you overtime pay for certain hours worked on a 7th consecutive day of the workweek.
Overtime pay is 1.5 times your regular rate of pay.
What is the law in California?
California law provides more rights and legal protections to workers than the FLSA and many other states. In California, workers have stronger rights to:
- rest days every week, and
- extra pay if they work overtime.
If your employer violates one of these rights, you can file a lawsuit. Your employer can also face civil and even criminal penalties. Getting the legal advice of a lawyer can help you recover what you are owed.
In California, employers are forbidden from requiring workers to work more than 6 out of 7 days in a week.10 However, there are several important exceptions to this rule.
The biggest exception is for workers who:
- do not exceed 30 hours in the week, and
- do not work 6 or more hours in any day of the week.11
Another exception is for workers who have to perform emergency work necessary to:
- protect life or property damage, or
- maintain trains.12
These part-time and emergency maintenance workers can be made to work 7 days in a week. Workers called on to perform emergency maintenance work are entitled to a monthly equivalent of 1 days rest out of 7.13
If legally required, the mandated day of rest only has to come once every calendar week. It does not strictly have to be once every 7 days.14 Employers do not violate the law by giving you a day off on Sunday of the first week and another day off on Saturday of the second week. Even though you would work for 12 straight days, you would still receive 2 days off in 14.
Employees can still choose to work 7 days in a week. However, employers have to apprise them of their right to take a day off, first, and cannot encourage them to forgo it.15
The penalties for violations are significant. Employers who violate the law commit a misdemeanor.16 This is a criminal offense. They also pay a civil penalty of:
- $50 for each pay period that each affected employee was underpaid for a first violation,
- $100 for each pay period that each affected employee was underpaid for all subsequent violations, and
- an amount equal to the underpaid wages.17
The affected employee receives the lost wages.
California also has more generous laws regarding overtime pay. While federal law only provides overtime pay for hours worked in excess of 40 in a workweek, California provides overtime pay if a non-exempt employee works more than:
- 8 hours in a day,
- 40 hours in a week, or
- 6 consecutive days in a workweek.18
This seems to mean that you will always earn overtime pay if you work on a seventh day in a row. That is not necessarily the case, though. You have to work more than 6 consecutive days in a workweek. Your employer makes the decision about when your workweek begins. It does not necessarily have to be on a Sunday or a Monday. If you work 7 consecutive days, but that streak straddles 2 workweeks, you are not entitled to overtime pay.
For example: Mark’s seven-day workweek begins on Mondays. His work schedule gives him Monday and Tuesday off. But then works 7 straight days, from Wednesday through the following Tuesday. The first 5 days are in the first workweek, but the next 2 are in the second workweek. Mark is not entitled to overtime pay for working 6 consecutive days in a workweek. He may be entitled to overtime pay for another reason, though.
California labor law also entitles workers to earn double-time pay in some situations. While overtime is paid at a time-and-one-half rate, double-time is twice as much as your regular hourly rate of pay.
In California, you earn double-time pay if you work more than:
- 12 hours in a single workday, or
- 8 hours on your 7th straight day of work in a workweek.19
Again, you can only earn double-time pay if you have worked for all 7 days in the same workweek. You can work for 7 days in a row and not be entitled to double-time pay if the 7 days straddle 2 workweeks. You may still be entitled to double-time pay for other reasons, though.
- 29 CFR 778.105.
- 820 ILCS 140/2.
- California Labor Code section 551 and 552 LAB.
- New York Labor Code 161.
- Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 149, Section 48.
- Wisconsin Statute 103.85.
- 820 ILCS 140/7(a).
- 29 USC 207(a).
- California Labor Code 552 LAB.
- California Labor Code 556 LAB and Mendoza v. Nordstrom, Inc., 2 Cal.5th 1074 (2017).
- California Labor Code 554(a) LAB.
- Mendoza v. Nordstrom, Inc., 2 Cal.5th 1074 (2017).
- California Labor Code 553 LAB.
- California Labor Code 558(a) LAB.
- California Labor Code 510 LAB.