How many days in a row can an employee work? That’s the question we’ll tackle in this installment of the Employment Law Checklist Project. #emplawchecklist

It’s actually a question I first asked right before Yom Kippur twelve years ago so it seems appropriate to revisit this today with the holiday this week.

The short answer is actually 12 — even though the law seems to suggest 6. And even 12 may not be the right answer. Details below.

The state law on the subject can be found in a section that looks to be unrelated to all the employment laws we’ve been covering: Conn. Gen. Stat. 53-303e. 

Wait, isn’t that in the criminal code? 

Why yes it is. It’s in the section that relates to the state’s blue laws — some of which were overturned many years ago.  But this particular law was revised in 2013 to update it to comply with a court ruling on the subject.

What’s it say? Well the key provision is as follows:

(a) No employer shall compel any employee engaged in any commercial occupation or in the work of any industrial process to work more than six days in any calendar week. An employee’s refusal to work more than six days in any calendar week shall not constitute grounds for his dismissal.

Scope: Seems to be all employers.  Employees engaged in any “commercial occupation” or in the “work of any industrial process” are protected, though good luck finding any cases truly delving into this.

What’s Prohibited or Required? An employer can’t “compel” or force an employee to work more than six days in a row in any calendar week.  And an employer can’t fire an employee who refuses to work on the seventh day.  BUT, asking an employee to work or the employee’s voluntary acceptance of such work is permissible.

So, how did I say 12 days in a row before?  Because the restriction only applies during a calendar week; as the CBIA noted, once a new calendar week starts, the clock resets. So technically you could have an employee work Monday to Saturday one week, and Sunday to Friday the next.

And as noted, an employee can work all seven days — as long as it is not compelled by the employer.

Private Right of Action or Other Penalty Allowed? No private right of action appears allowed by the employee can make a complaint to the State Board of Mediation and Arbitration.

As for penalties, if the  SBMA finds a violation, it can order “whatever remedy will make the employee whole”.  Also, section (c) indicates that any person who violates this section shall be fined not more than $200.  Note that this appears to be a conflict with Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 53-303c which indicates that the penalty for a violations ahll not be more than $100 for the first offense or $500 for subsequent offenses.

Any Practical Steps Employers Can Take? Ask, don’t demand, that employees who want to work all seven days in a week will be permitted to do so; just make sure it’s voluntary.  Of course, for some employees, they may get substantial overtime for the work so there may be a cost too.

Any Other Interesting Information or Background? When employers look up employment laws, they need to realize that not all laws are group together. Some of the laws are in far-ranging places that you wouldn’t first look at.  Here, the criminal laws are implicated.  If you want to see what other statutes are “nearby”, you should know that the state prohibits certain “bucket shops”. 

Yeah, I needed to look that up too.