March 13, 2024

FLSA Fun Fact – How Many Hours in a Workweek?

Today, most employers use a 40-hour work week as their standard.  Some use a lower number such as 37.5 or 35, accounting for an unpaid meal period of 30 or 60 minutes in a five-day workweek.

Why is 40 the standard? The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which was enacted in 1938, uses 40 hours as the threshold for overtime. A non-exempt employee must be paid overtime for all hours worked over 40 in a workweek.  But that was not always the case.

When enacted in 1928, the FLSA required employers to pay overtime for hours worked in excess of 44 hours in a week, with a scheduled decrease to 40 hours by 1940. The purpose of the overtime provision was to reduce unemployment by encouraging employers to hire more workers, rather than requiring current employees to work more than 40 hours per week and pay the premium overtime rate.

On March 13th, a bill was introduced in Congress to reduce the workweek to 32 hours. The bill proposes an employer pay a non-exempt employee:

  • overtime (time and one-half) for hours worked over 32 hours in a workweek;
  • overtime (time and one-half) for hours worked over eight (8) but less than 12 in a day;
  • overtime (double time) for hours worked over 12 in a day; and
  • an employer may not reduce the total workweek compensation rate, including the regular rate at which the employee is employed or any other benefit due to the employee being brought within the purview of this section.


This is not the first time this has been proposed. One of the cosponsors of the current bill introduced a similar bill in 2021 although it was not as extensive. Stay tuned to see what traction this bill gets, if any. If it does, start crunching your numbers and let your elected representatives know the fiscal impact to your business operations. Read the sponsor’s fact sheet here.