Is an Alternative Workweek Schedule Right for My Company?

Posted by Catherine Chukwueke | Nov 15, 2022

What is an Alternative Workweek Schedule? 

The Industrial Welfare Commission (“IWC”) regulates wages, hours, and working conditions for workers. The California Labor Code and some IWC Wage Orders provide for Alternative Workweek Schedules (“AWS”). The Wage Orders also cover different industries such as the manufacturing industry, professional occupations, and the public housekeeping industry. 

AWS are regularly scheduled workweeks requiring an employee to work more than eight (8) hours in a 24-hour period. Any time worked that exceeds ten (10) hours per day is subject to overtime premium pay. 

Employers interested in implementing an AWS must identify the work unit and determine the workweek days and hours (the newly proposed work schedule). Employers are required to discuss the proposed schedule changes with their employees.

In order for the AWS to be valid and recognized by the IWC, the proposed schedule must be adopted in a secret ballot election by at least a two-thirds (2/3) vote of the affected employees in the work unit.

If you are an employer looking to implement an AWS at your worksite, it is important to consult with an employment attorney to ensure that all of the requirements to implement an AWS are met. 

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: How do I know if I can implement an AWS for my employees?

A: AWSs are provided for in  Wage Orders 1-13, 16, and 17. Contact an employment attorney to see if your company/organization is within an industry that permits AWS. 

Q: An AWS can apply to work units within a company. What is a work unit? 

A: Work units can be a division, department, job classification, shift, a separate physical location, and/or subdivision. 

Q: Can a work unit consist of one employee?

A: Yes. A work unit may consist of an individual employee. For instance, if only one employee exists in a particular department or job, that would still be considered a work unit. 

Q: What is an example of a popular and acceptable AWS? 

A: An acceptable regularly scheduled AWS could be a 4/10 workweek where the employees work 4 days a week for 10 hours each day. Another example is a schedule where employees have a 3/12 and 1/4 workweek where the employees work 3 days for 12 hours a day and 1 day for 4 hours. 

Q: I am the owner of a healthcare facility. Can I have an AWS where my employees work up to 12 hours a day without having to pay them overtime wages?

A: Yes. Employees in the healthcare industry can agree to an AWS of up to 12-hour days without the requirement to pay overtime premium pay for any hours up to 12. 

Q: Is there a minimum number of hours an employee has to work in one day in an AWS? 

A: Yes. The AWS must provide at least 4 hours of work in any scheduled workday in the alternative workweek.

Q: I am the owner of a healthcare facility and I am looking to implement an AWS. Am I required to provide my employees two consecutive days off under an AWS? 

A: There is no requirement for two consecutive days off working in an AWS for healthcare workers. 

Q: I held an election for an AWS a few years ago and the employees elected to adopt the proposed AWS. I forgot to send the results of the election to the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement. May I send the results now and implement the AWS at my workplace?

A: No. Labor Code section 511(e) states “[t]he results of any election conducted pursuant to this section shall be reported by an employer to the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement within 30 days after the results are final.” You waited too long to send the results. You will need to conduct a new AWS election.

Q: My employer wants to implement an AWS at my job. My employer is asking the employees to pitch in to pay for the AWS election. He wants approximately $25.00 from each employee. Is this legal?

A: No. The employer must pay for all costs associated with the AWS election.

Q: My employer wants to implement an AWS and is holding the election at a restaurant on a Saturday. Our offices are generally closed on Saturdays. Is this legal? 

A: No. The election must be held at the worksite of the affected employees (the location where you normally work) during regular working hours. 

Q: I am an employer counting the votes for an AWS election. I noticed a few workers did not vote. What does this mean in terms of counting the votes? 

A: A worker that does not vote in effect votes no. 

Q: My employer implemented an AWS at my job and I am unhappy. I voted against the AWS. What can I do? 

A: You may repeal the AWS. One-third (1/3) of the affected employees at your job may petition to repeal the AWS. If this occurs, a new secret ballot election must be held, and a two-thirds (2/3) vote of the affected employees is required to reverse the AWS.

Q: I am an employer and I recently implemented an AWS at my workplace. Some of the employees want to repeal the AWS. I already paid for the first election. Do I have to pay for the election to repeal the AWS, too?

A: Yes. The employer is obligated to bear all costs associated with conducting any election called for in connection with AWS. This includes the original election proposed by the employer and any election allowed by California Labor Code § 511 or elections to decertify or repeal the AWS.

Contact the Law Office of Catherine Chukwueke to discuss how we can advise you on how to implement an Alternative Work Schedule for your company or organization. 

If you have any questions regarding your company's policies or need guidance on California employment law, contact the Law Office of Catherine Chukwueke and schedule a consultation. We are here to help you navigate the complexities of employment law with confidence.

Disclaimer: This article has been prepared and published for informational purposes only and is not offered, nor should be construed, as legal advice. 

About the Author

Catherine Chukwueke

Catherine (“Cathy”) Chukwueke is the Owner and Principal Attorney of the Law Office of Catherine Chukwueke, a law firm focusing on labor and employment matters and workplace investigations. Ms. Chukwueke is passionate about helping people who have been mistreated in the workplace.

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