Boss might apologize for your lousy hours

Can They Do That?

Your Money

May 30, 2004|By Carrie Mason-Draffen

My husband works full time for a large retailer. It's maddening how irregular his hours are. Even though he might work from 3 p.m. to midnight one day, he sometimes has to return the following day as early as 8 a.m. This doesn't seem right to me.

The company also does not want to pay him any overtime, even if he's unable to hand off customers when his shift is up. Instead, to keep him from logging more than 40 hours in a week, his manager will tell him to take a longer lunch. Does the worker have any rights these days?

Though the scheduling borders on insensitive, it sounds legal. Labor laws restrict working hours in few occupations, usually involving elements of public responsibility and safety. For example, janitors, superintendents or engineers who work in warehouses or office or apartment buildings have to receive at least 24 consecutive hours of rest in every calendar week. Workers younger than 18 also face restrictions on the number of hours they can work.

But for those not covered by such restrictions -- and that involves the majority of us -- employers can work you as many hours as they want. And they can ask you to come in late or take a longer lunch to keep you at no more than 40 hours a week.

So it's all legal. But it's bad management. Onerous, unpredictable scheduling shouldn't be anyone's management tool, especially as an alternative to hiring enough people. Even when managers have no other choice but to press as much as they can out of one poor soul, they should apologize for disrupting the employee's life and try to minimize that.

Carrie Mason-Draffen is a columnist for Newsday, a Tribune Publishing newspaper. E-mail her at

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