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Sanders’ 32-Hour Workweek Act

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) has introduced a bill to amend the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which is the federal wage and hour law. The bill, co-sponsored in the House by Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.), would reduce the 40-hour workweek to 32 hours by requiring the payment of overtime (OT) after 32 hours in a workweek. Sanders’ bill would also require that employees’ rates of pay be adjusted so that the reduction in the workweek would not reduce the income of employees when they work 32 hours instead of 40. This portion of the bill received a lot of publicity in the media.

Proposed Daily Overtime Changes

There’s another component to the legislation that hasn’t been discussed much, however. The proposed FLSA amendments would require the payment of daily OT as well. Employees would be due time and a half for hours worked over 8 on any day, up to 12. Employees would be entitled to double time for hours worked over 12 on any day.

The FLSA of 1938 was passed by Congress and signed by President Roosevelt and became effective on June 25, 1938. It has never required the payment of daily overtime. Several states do require daily OT, notably California. In fact, the daily OT provisions of Sen. Sanders’ bill seem to be modeled on California’s OT law, which already requires time and a half after 8 hours and double time after 12 hours worked per day.

It seems unlikely that this bill will be adopted, given that the Republicans control the House and generally oppose legislation like this. However, it may be setting the stage for another effort after the November 2024, elections, should the Democrats win the House and keep the Senate, and President Biden is re-elected. If the Democrats get the trifecta, it would not be surprising to see at least the daily overtime provisions re-introduced in the next Congress. If the Republicans capture the presidency, or either house of Congress, proposals like this are likely dead in the water.

Photo credit: Image by Ernesto Eslava from Pixabay


Avatar of Brian Farrington
Brian T. Farrington is a Shareholder and Section Head of the Cowles and Thompson Employment Law section. His practice consists of transactional work and litigation advising and representing management concerning employment law, and particularly in the areas of Fair Labor Standards Act and Equal Employment Opportunity laws. He consults with employers to assist them in compliance and to represent them in investigations by the U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division. Brian also advises clients on compliance with state wage and hour laws and represents them in investigations by state Departments of Labor. He also advises on matters related to Texas Workforce Commission unemployment eligibility, government contracts labor standards (Davis Bacon Act, Service Contract Act), OSHA 11(c), and state wage payment laws. Brian has represented clients in litigation under the FLSA, Title VII, the ADEA, and the ADA. Prior to becoming an attorney, Brian spent 12 years working with the US Department of Labor Wage & Hour Division. He has served as an Expert Witness in FLSA employment matters, and is a trained employment-related mediator.