Wisconsin Workweek Under Review

TGIF wet-napAn unusual law in Wisconsin that bans seven day work weeks may soon be abolished. Currently, employers in the state are required to give workers at least one day off for every seven days of work but state assemblymen are challenging the law. Republican Mark Born is a sponsor of the bill who says that the original intention of the law was to allow employees to “volunteer” for that extra day and there shouldn’t be a law mandating that they can’t work if they want to.

Not many states have laws like the current one in Wisconsin and some businesses in the state even have had the requirement voided. Labor unions are fighting to keep the statute, they are worried that abolishing it will lead to abuse and manipulation by employers. They say the option to work will not really be an option.

The problem is that employees might not really want to but feel like they have to. There are those who say that many employers blur the lines between optional and mandatory- “you will ‘volunteer’ to work or else risk losing your job”. The law was originally passed to offer protection from workplace bullying like this.

“ ‘Voluntary’ typically doesn’t mean that the worker has any choice in the matter,” she said. “It generally means, if you want to keep your job or have a job, you have to take what the employer is describing,” says National Employment Law Project’s Catherine Ruckelshaus.

Other disputers of the new legislation say there has not been a request or outcry from businesses who want to get rid of the ban. Representative Born says he was approached by an influential lobby, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, and began working on the new bill to abolish the ban on the seven day work week after they contacted him. MSNBC could not reach WMC for comment.

The other sponsor is Senator Glenn Grothman. The sponsors say that they think the bill means workers will be able to make more money and managers can expect increased production. They say they have never heard of an occasion where employers pressure workers into working extra hours.

Another representative, Cory Mason, said the bill was a “slap in the face” to Wisconsin workers.

“People deserve at least a day off a week. It’s a legal protection for a reason.”

This worries me mainly because I can see it having consequences on worker safety and satisfaction. People who work every day during the week without a break might be tired. They might not be as focused. These conditions sound like a recipe for increased injury rate. It also says something about the possibility of workplace abuse or workplace bullying. I would hate to see employees being taken advantage of if they feel they have no safety net.

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