Oh the Irony!
Labor Day marks the unofficial end of summer, and retailers always mark this occasion with deals, sales, and savings. After all, federal holidays are best spent shopping.
While you are shopping, you give pause to consider the irony of what is happening. By shopping, you are requiring other people to work on Labor Day, which by definition is a holiday for laborers.
Is it fair to ask those in the retail industry to work on Labor Day? Are you a retail worker that is being forced to work on Labor Day? Do retail workers have any protections under the law?
Day of Rest Statute
You remember from your days working at the grocery store in high school that there were laws that specifically protected retail employees, or so you were told. Is there a law that governs how many days a retail employee may work?
The so called Day of Rest statute specifically addresses the issue of how many consecutive days an employer may require a retail worker to work. This statute only applies to those employees who work in retail. According to the Day of Rest statute, when an establishment is in the business of selling merchandise at retail, the employer may not require the employee to work seven consecutive days in that establishment.
Why Require a Day of Rest?
As the nickname of the statute implies, the intention of the law may be to protect the religious interests of the employees. The employer cannot deny an employee at least one period of twenty-four consecutive hours off work for rest or worship in each seven-day period.
The employer must also accommodate the religious beliefs and practices of the employee, unless it would constitute an undue hardship on the conduct of the business.
Basically, this means that if you work in the retail industry, and you inform your employer that you go to church every Sunday, absent extenuating hardship on the business, you should be given the time to go to church. However, be aware that there are requirements that must be followed and you should speak with an employment attorney if you are considering a lawsuit.
Does this Law Apply to all Employees?
Unfortunately not. This provision does not apply to part time employees whose total work hours for this particular employer during a calendar week do not exceed thirty hours. Therefore, the part time high school workers you see at the grocery store do not have this protection (though they undoubtedly have others).
But, I Need the Hours!
If a retail employer violates the seven consecutive days law, that employer can be prosecuted for a Class C Misdemeanor.
HOWEVER, there is an affirmative defense to prosecution for the retail employer if the employee volunteered to work on the seventh day. If the employee volunteers to work on the seventh day, the employee must sign a written statement that the employee volunteered and the statement must also contain a provision, signed by the employer or the employer’s agent, that the employer did not require the work.
Therefore, if you really need the hours, and your retail employer won’t let you work on the seventh day, you can score mucho kudo points if you show up with this written statement with the required language. You’ll show your boss that you want to protect his/her butt while also showing that you’re a motivated go-getter. Motivated go-getters are management material!
So as you go shopping on this holiday, please remember that this day is for all workers. Also remember that while the law does protect some aspects of the cashier’s employment, it doesn’t specifically protect him from having to deal with unruly customers. Be nice and thank those in the retail industry for working on what is, after all, their holiday too.
–Authored by Carrie A. Harris, BA
Matthew Harris Law, PLLC – Civil Litigation Division
1001 Main Street, Suite 200, Lubbock, Texas, 79401-3309
Tel: (806) 702-4852 | Fax: (800) 985-9479