Unlike the United States, the European Union has a 48-hour work-week limit, with some loopholes and exceptions. In Canada, after 48 hours, all overtime is voluntary and can’t be imposed by an employer. But in the United States, the strongest law limiting overtime is in Maine, where employees can be required to work only 80 hours of overtime in any given two-week period.
That law came about in 2000, after a lineman working to get the power back on after a storm toiled more than 90 hours with few breaks before he accidentally electrocuted himself, says John de Graaf, national coordinator for Take Back Your Time Day.
“In this country there are virtually no protections of any sort on workers’ time,” de Graaf says. “It’s rather bizarre that a recent law passed in 2000 that limits overtime to 80 hours every two weeks is really for all intents and purposes the best that we do here in the United States.”