At 2 a.m. on Sunday, March 11, 2018, people across the United States will set their clocks forward one hour to begin Daylight Saving Time (DST). The change is intended to align the average workday more closely with the hours that the sun is visible, which studies have shown to cut energy consumption, reduce instances of seasonal affective disorder, and even boost regional economies. Often perceived as a holdover from a simpler and more agrarian U.S. culture, the practice actually enamors some contemporary lawmakers: the Energy Policy Act of 2005 actually expanded DST by four weeks.
For many, the change simply means one less hour of sleep; but for employers, the time change has unique and important implications. While most organizations have developed protocols for dealing with the technological requirements of the time shift, such as adjusting the time in their computer systems, voice mail, and time clocks, many employers may not be prepared for other impacts of the time change caused by the start of DST.
Watching the Clock: Pay for Employees Working at 2 a.m. on March 11, 2018
An employee that is not “exempt” from the overtime requirement of the Fair Labor Standards Act and subject to the New York Wage Payment Law (Article 6 of the New York Labor Law) must be paid for all time worked. Generally, time worked is defined as time that an employee is “suffered or permitted to work.” (See, e.g., Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 203 (g); 29 C.F.R.§ 785.) “Non-exempt” employees working the midnight, third, or graveyard shift on Sunday, March 11, 2018, will not have worked from 2–3 a.m., and absent a policy or a provision of a collective bargaining agreement providing otherwise, an employer is not obligated to pay an employee for that hour. If an employer does voluntarily pay employees for this hour, it may credit this payment toward any overtime compensation that is required. Conversely, employees who work this shift in November at the end of DST work an additional hour for which the employee must be compensated.
Springing Forward and Falling Back: Dangers of DST-Related Workplace Injuries
According to the National Sleep Foundation, it will take most people a few days to adjust to the loss of one hour of sleep. According to a study published by the Journal of Applied Psychology in 2009, on the Monday following the advance of one hour on the clock, employees lose an average of 40 minutes of sleep. The same study found that on the Monday following an advance, workplace injuries increase by 5.7 percent. Further, the injuries that occur on the Monday following the “Spring Forward” of clocks are much more severe, resulting in 67.6 percent more work days lost than injuries on other days.
Awareness of the increased safety risk may help employees exercise additional caution and avoid potentially dangerous accidents and injuries.
Five O’Clock Somewhere: Proposed Legislation to Make DST Permanent
Some states have opted out of DST (Arizona and Hawaii). The Florida legislature, however, on March 6 passed the Sunshine Protection Act, which aims to put the state’s clocks and residents permanently in DST. The act awaits a signature from Governor Rick Scott.
The Sunshine Protection Act may seem like a radical step beyond other state-led efforts to make DST permanent, like the commissions established and proposals put forward in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island. However, because the Uniform Time Act of 1966 established a system of uniform DST, Florida’s Sunshine Protection Act is contingent on the unlikely possibility of Congress “authoriz[ing] states to observe daylight saving time year-round.”