At 2:00 a.m. on Sunday, March 13, 2011, people all across the United States set their clocks forward one hour to start Daylight Savings Time. Daylight Saving Time (DST) is intended to place more sunlight into “daytime” hours by advancing clocks by one hour during the summer, causing the sun to appear to rise one hour later in the morning, when people are usually asleep, and set one hour later in the evening, seeming to stretch the day longer. In fact, 2011 will be the fifth year of expanded DST. Pursuant to the Energy Policy Act of 2005, commencing in 2007, DST starts three weeks earlier than it previously did, on the second Sunday in March, and is extended by one week to the first Sunday in November.
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. However, many employers may not be prepared for the other impacts of the time change caused by the start of DST.
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 13, 2011 did not work from 2:00 a.m. to 3:00 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 a non-exempt employee for this hour, it may credit this payment toward any overtime compensation that is required. Conversely, a non-exempt employee that work this shift in November at the end of DST works an additional hour for which the employee must be compensated. However, employers are cautioned against deducting one hour of pay from an “exempt” employee working the midnight shift as this may destroy the “salaried” status of the employee. Typically, an “exempt” salaried employee will receive the same pay for working the graveyard shift in March and in November as the employee is paid on a salaried, not an hourly basis. Making a “partial day deduction” from an “exempt” employee may destroy that employee’s “salaried” status.
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 in 2009*, on the Monday following the advance of one hour on the clock, employees lose an average of forty minutes of sleep. Considering that America is already regarded as a sleep deprived nation, this loss is especially significant.
This loss of sleep is not without consequence. The same study* found that on the Monday following an advance, workplace injuries increase by 5.7%. Further, the injuries that occur on the Monday following the “Spring Forward” of clocks are much more severe, resulting in 67.6% more work days lost than injuries that occur on other days.
Awareness of the increased safety risk may help employees exercise additional caution and avoid potentially dangerous accidents and injuries.
*Christopher M. Barnes and David T. Wagner, Changing to Daylight Saving Time Cuts Into Sleep and Increases Workplace Injuries, JOURNAL OF APPLIED PSYCHOLOGY, 2009, Vol. 94, No. 5 (2009)