Wisconsin Clears Path for More Employee Overtime

by | Jul 22, 2015 | Blog |

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Wisconsin Clears Path for More Employee Overtime

What’s Changed

In a nutshell, employees in Wisconsin can now work seven consecutive days under state law. A mandatory rest period is now optional.

Background

For many years Wisconsin law has required mercantile and factory employers to provide covered employees with 24 consecutive hours of rest every seven days unless permission was received from the Department of Workforce Development to modify or waive this requirement.1 Effective July 14, however, as a result of the state budget recently signed by Wisconsin’s Governor, this prohibition against a 7-day workweek will not apply to workers who indicate in writing that they voluntarily choose to work without 24 consecutive hours of rest in seven consecutive days.

Analysis

This change has an immediate impact on labor planning, scheduling, and budgeting for employers with Wisconsin-based employees, but should also be monitored by employers based in other states. Wisconsin is among numerous states requiring some period of rest for employees during a workweek, and changes in one state often prompt discussion and action elsewhere. Whether this law will benefit or harm employees depends on who you ask.

  • Proponents argue that by changing the state’s “one day of rest in seven” requirement to allow workers to merely agree in writing to forgo 24 consecutive hours of rest in every seven consecutive days (as opposed to the more burdensome process of seeking permission from the state), Wisconsin has created opportunities for employees to work additional overtime if they want to.
  • On the other hand, Wisconsin employers will now have to be even more vigilant in employee scheduling and tracking work hours because excessive overtime can lead to higher costs, decreased employee morale, increased worker turnover, and lower product quality. The policies for assigning schedules need to be very transparent, consistent, and fair. There is vocal opposition to the law, including through national publications such as the Atlantic Monthly and mainstream news outlets.

Only time will tell how this new law will affect Wisconsin workers and employers. No matter what, timekeeping and scheduling practices may come under greater scrutiny.

1 Twenty four consecutive hours of rest each calendar week is deemed compliant with Wisconsin’s day of rest law. DWD 275.01

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