Most people define a work week as the hours of operation of a business, often starting at 8am on Monday and ending on 5pm Friday. There is a bit more to it than that, and it’s necessary to ensure compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by establishing an actual workweek.
Your workweek defines the 168-hour period, which is seven 24-hour days, during which you will track your employees’ worked hours to determine if you owe them any overtime.
For example, your work week may start at 12am Sunday morning, and end at midnight the following Saturday. This is the period in which you track your employee’s time and see if they have worked more than 40 hours.
You need to track your employees’ worked time on a weekly, or workweek, basis, regardless of the payment schedule your organization adheres to. It doesn’t matter if you pay weekly, bi-weekly or monthly.
Here is an example: your workweek starts at 12am Sunday and ends at midnight the following Saturday. Your employee works 8 hours a day from Sunday through Friday, adding up to 48 hours total. This means your employee is owed 8 hours of overtime because their worked hours in your workweek exceed the 40 hour mark.
In another scenario, your workweek starts at 12am Wednesday and ends at midnight the following Tuesday. Your employee works the same hours (8 hours a day from Sunday through Friday) but because the workweek starts in the middle of these worked hours, technically the employee only worked 24 hours in the first workweek, and 24 hours in the second workweek. This means they are not owed overtime.
Overall, the days chosen by an organization to define a workweek will have a very limited impact on overtime payout. Your designated workweek should rarely change, if at all, as the department of labor defines a workweek as ‘fixed and regularly occurring’. Repeated attempts to avoid paying out overtime by moving your workweek around will likely raise red flags if brought to the DOL’s attention.
The bottom line is that it’s important to define when your workweek starts and ends in order to comply with overtime requirements of the FLSA. As a best practice, and a requirement in several states, you should also make sure employees are aware of the workweek by posting it somewhere conspicuous, such as on a poster in the break room or as a policy in your handbook.