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Can I offer an alternative workweek to my employees?

In recent years, there has been discussion about whether the five-day, 40-hour workweek is still relevant to modern life. Some companies have taken it upon themselves to adjust working hours to better balance the business and personal aspects of their employees’ weeks. 

It is a trendy enough topic for some think pieces to declare we are closer to a four-day workweek than we think. However, even those articles will concede that not all occupations can adapt this way, and some of the companies profiled are not U.S.-based businesses.

Even in this country, the ability to offer an alternative workweek varies by state, so an enterprise that can succeed in New York may not be the best model for a California business.

California code for alternative workweeks

California code allows employers to set a regularly scheduled alternative workweek without violating overtime provisions, so long as the schedule contains no more than 10 hours per day within a 40-hour period. All work performed in any workweek beyond the schedule established by the agreement up to 12 hours or beyond 40 hours per week must be paid at one and one-half times the employee’s regular pay rate.

Employers cannot schedule an alternative workweek in which there is less than four hours of work in a given shift. Employers also cannot reduce an employee’s pay as the result of adopting an alternative workweek schedule.

The code further directs employers to find reasonable accommodations for employees whose religious observance conflicts with an alternative workweek and to find a work schedule to accommodate any affected employees who are eligible to vote and are unable to work the established alternative workweek because of said election.

Alternative workweeks could open doors for unpaid overtime lawsuits

With the varying restrictions placed on businesses and the need for consistency in an alternative workweek, there is a risk that employers may, unknowingly, violate overtime provisions in a good-natured attempt to provide an alternative schedule.

Businesses that have an interest in exploring the complexities of an alternative workweek can work with an employment law attorney who is experienced in defending employers in matters of overtime, as they can assist with understanding exactly how to execute an alternative workweek without violating state provisions.

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