How Many Hours Straight Can You Legally Work In A Day

How Many Hours Straight Can You Legally Work In A Day

Many employees wonder how many hours they can legally work in a day. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) states that a normal work shift should not exceed 8 consecutive hours in a day, with each shift separated by at least 8 hours of rest. A typical workweek consists of 5 such work days. However, these guidelines are not binding, and OSHA does not penalize employers who demand longer hours.

Studies have shown that long or unusual working shifts have a negative impact on worker safety. One study found that visits to the emergency room from workplace injuries increased nearly threefold outside of regular working hours. The rate of workplace injuries increased significantly during off-hours, likely due to worker fatigue and less supervision during these times.

Impact of Long Working Hours on Worker Safety

Another study found that compared to 8-hour shifts, 10-hour shifts saw a 13 percent increase in the risks of an accident or error, and 12-hour shifts saw a 28 percent increase. Due to these increased risks of workplace injury, OSHA recommends that employers generally use a normal work shift, consisting of no more than 8 consecutive hours, happening only 5 days a week, and split from other shifts by at least 8 hours of rest.

Federal Laws and Regulations

There are no federal laws that limit how many hours an adult employee can work in a single day. However, some regulations can affect certain industries, such as trucking. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) mandates the federal minimum wage and employee overtime pay for non-exempt workers. Non-exempt employees are entitled to one-and-one-half times their regular rate of pay for every hour worked in excess of 40 hours in a workweek.

Regulations in California

In California, non-exempt employees are entitled to overtime pay if they work more than 8 hours in a day, 40 hours in a week, or 6 consecutive days in a row. State laws may provide more generous overtime pay. Some industries, like trucking, regulate how many hours employees can work in a day. The Department of Transportation (DOT) hours of service rules put a daily driving limit on interstate truckers.

Rest and Meal Periods

While federal employment law does not require employers to provide rest or meal periods to employees, many state laws mandate these rest periods. In California, non-exempt workers are entitled to an unpaid 30-minute meal break if they work more than 5 hours in a day, and a paid 10-minute rest break for every 4 hours of work.

OSHA’s Role in Preventing Worker Fatigue

OSHA can cite employers for ignoring the risks of employee fatigue in the workplace. However, it cannot cite employers simply because their workers are tired. Employers can be cited if they know that their workers are overworked and fatigued, recognize the risks, but do nothing to fix it.

Get a Free Lawsuit Evaluation With Our Lawyers

If you or a loved one was injured due to workplace fatigue or long working hours, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact our experienced team of trial lawyers for a free case evaluation. We handle individual litigation nationwide and are currently accepting new legal challenges in all 50 states.


What is the “regular rate of pay,” and how is it determined?

The regular rate of pay includes various kinds of remuneration, such as hourly earnings, salary, piecework earnings, and commissions. It is determined based on the compensation an employee normally earns for the work performed.

If an employee works unauthorized overtime, is the employer obligated to pay for it?

Yes, California law requires that employers pay overtime, whether authorized or not, at the rate of one and one-half times the employee’s regular rate of pay for all hours worked in excess of eight up to and including 12 hours in any workday.

Are salaried employees entitled to overtime?

A salaried employee must be paid overtime unless they meet the test for exempt status as defined by federal and state laws, or unless they are specifically exempted from overtime by the provisions of the California Labor Code or one of the Industrial Welfare Commission Wage Orders regulating wages, hours, and working conditions.

Can an employer require an employee to work overtime?

Yes, in general, an employer may dictate the employee’s work schedule and hours. However, an employer cannot discipline an employee for refusing to work on the 7th day in a workweek and is subject to a penalty for causing or inducing an employee to forego a day of rest.

When must I be paid for the overtime hours I work?

Overtime wages must be paid no later than the payday for the next regular payroll period after which the overtime wages were earned.

Can an employee waive his or her right to overtime compensation?

No, California law requires that an employee be paid all overtime compensation notwithstanding any agreement to work for a lesser wage.

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