Ask The Lawyer, WHO NEEDS SLEEP?


QUESTION: My son-in-law is a resident at a hospital. We visited with him and my daughter last weekend, and he looked exhausted. My daughter told me he had worked a 20-hour shift. Aren’t there limits on how many hours someone can be required to work in a day?

ANSWER: The Fair Labor Standards Act, the federal law that establishes a minimum wage, sets and sets overtime pay, and recordkeeping requirements, does not place a limit on the number of hours worked by anyone over 16 years of age. It is even legal to ask a salaried worker – like your son-in-law – to work 28 hours straight. The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, the private group that oversees physician training, extended work limits for first-year residents from 16 hours per shift to as many as 28 hours, although a resident is limited to working a maximum of 80 hours per week. Since first-year residents, also called interns, are exempt employees, they are not entitled to any overtime. While the road to becoming a doctor is rough, there is a payoff: The average salary for a medical doctor in the United States, according to, is almost $180,000.

Although there is no limit on the number of hours any worker can be asked to put in during a week, hourly workers must be paid overtime when they work more than 40 hours in a given week. for any hours worked in a week a beyond 40. It is not uncommon for factory workers to work 12 hours/day seven days a week.

So why don’t employers require all salaried workers to put in mega hours at work? In part, employers realize that a worker becomes less effective, and more inclined to make mistakes. One study found that productivity for an employee working 60 hours per week was often less than that than for the same worker in during a 40-hour week. And, as Henry Ford noted when he established a 40-hour workweek for Ford employees back in 1926, “the people who consume the bulk of goods are the people who make them.” American workers are also American consumers, and they need time to spend their earnings.

The lawyers at GWINN LEGAL PLLC are experienced attorneys and are happy to answer your questions. Give us a call for a free initial telephone consultation about your legal needs. For consideration of your questions in our web column, please submit your inquiry on the “Contact Us” page of our website at

Information provided on “Ask the Lawyer” is current as of the date of publication. Laws and their interpretation are subject to change. The material provided through “Ask the Lawyer” is informational only; it should not be considered legal advice. Submitting a question to “Ask the Lawyer” does not create an attorney-client relationship between the person submitting the question and GWINN LEGAL PLLC. To view previous columns, please visit our website.

Daniel A. Gwinn
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Troy, MI  48084
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