The U.S. Department of Labor defines a regular workweek as consisting of 40 hours in seven days. An employer may require employees to work in excess of that standard. Employees who work in Delaware and are faced with mandatory overtime will be protected by federal law, of course. However, Delaware law offers employees no significant protection beyond that established by federal law.
The federal Fair Labor Standards Act establishes that any hours worked over 40 within a seven-day period must be paid at least 1.5 times the regular rate of pay. However, the FLSA does not restrict the number of hours an employer can require of its workers. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration publishes a guide that cautions employers to allow adequate break time for overtaxed employees, although it provides no enforceable limitations.
Whatever contract a new hire signs determines overtime rules as long as FSLA standards are observed. Potential employees can and should address any overtime concerns before accepting a new job. A union can take advantage of collective bargaining to limit overtime for union members. Whether discussed with an employer individually or as a group, overtime requirements are a matter of agreement and not a matter of law.
Certain federal laws provide a few exceptions to the free reign given to employers regarding overtime. Child labor statutes restrict the work week to 40 hours for children age 14 and 15; those age 16 and 17 are not allowed be at work for more than 16 hours in a day. And if an employee has a disability that interferes with her working overtime, the Americans with Disabilities Act may require the employer to make a reasonable effort to either exempt the employee from overtime or give her assistance to enable her to do it.
As a rule, Delaware finds all federal regulations concerning overtime--mandatory or otherwise--to be adequate and does not expand on them. The only mention of hourly obligations for employers in Delaware's code can be found in Title 19, subsection 707, which says that meal breaks "must be given some time after the first two hours of work and before the last two hours" if the shift is longer than 7.5 hours. This again restates federal law.
Daniel Annear has been a writer, editor, and teacher since 1998. He held the editorship of the "Descant Literary Magazine" for three years, and taught literature at Trident Technical College in Charleston, S.C. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from King College.