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Are 4-Day Work Weeks Right 4 Employers?

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In the midst of a national labor shortage, employers recruiting from a shrinking pool of potential employees are looking for ways to gain a competitive edge over other employers. What’s a better job perk than having every Friday off?

Companies nationwide, including an Ohio construction and real estate company, are beginning to implement 4-day work weeks. Employees still work 40 hours per week, but for 10 hours per day for 4 days (also known as “4 10’s”). Employees for the company usually worked from 7 AM to 6 PM Monday-Thursday, with Fridays off. But before employers implement a shortened week, they should consider their work force, the nature of their operations, and applicable state and federal law.

Employers contemplating implementing a 4-day work week should consider the following factors:

  • Overtime. Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, employers must only pay employees overtime for hours worked beyond 40 per week. Ohio overtime laws mirror the FLSA in this regard – employers must pay employees overtime if they work more than 40 hours per week.

However, some state laws may dissuade employers from switching to a 4-day work week. In Alaska, California, Colorado, Minnesota, Nevada, and Oregon, employers may have to pay employees overtime if they work more than 8 hours per day. In these states, employers who implement 4 10’s would have to pay employees 2 hours of overtime per day.

  • Leave eligibility. Under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, eligibility depends, in part, on the number of hours worked. Employers may also want to consider revising their policies governing eligibility for paid time off if they are based on number of hours worked.
  • Discrimination. Longer workdays may have a disparate impact on employees who are parents and unable to secure additional childcare, presenting potential legal exposure. On the other hand, some parents have reported that they prefer the 4-day week because it allows them an extra day to spend with their families.
  • Unions. Employers with unionized work forces also face the additional hurdle of collective bargaining, as changes to employee work schedules are typically a mandatory subject of bargaining.

Employers in office or administrative settings could most easily transition to the 4-day week, but the transition may be more difficult for employers in the service industry whose customers rely on them to be open regular hours.

Alternatively, some employers have experimented with 32-hour work weeks, including an Ohio-based manufacturer. The manufacturer maintained 8-hour workdays while giving employees an extra day off, and reported that they learned to finish jobs in less time.

Apart from legal hurdles, employers that serve clients who are not on the 4-day work week may face additional difficulties. If clients and customers expect responses 5 days a week, employees may be forced to work on their days off. For example, employees at the Ohio construction and real estate company reported following up with tasks or checking email on Fridays or Saturdays. For hourly employees, this may result in overtime.

At the end of the day (whether that be after 8 or 10 hours), employers considering a 4-day work week should consult with legal counsel. While attractive for existing and potential employees, the 4-day week could present more risks than rewards for employers.

If you have questions about 4-day work weeks or a general labor or employment question, feel free to contact Katie McLaughlin or any member of Frantz Ward’s Labor & Employment Group.

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