The 40 Hour Work Week-Part 1

Posted by Col Ovik on August 25, 2023 at 7:30 AM
Col Ovik

shutterstock_267626603The 40 hour work week was signed into law in 1940 as part of The Fair Labor and Standards Act, but should society continue to allow this standard? To understand if the 40 hour work week should remain, we must first discuss the origin of the 40 hour work week, and how we came to accept this standard for the past 70 years. 

For much of human history the need to regulate working hours was unnecessary. Most of society was agrarian and the hours worked was based on the season, and the weather. The working hours were fluid. There were simply times when you needed to work more hours, and times when you would work less hours. Then came the Industrial Revolution. With the Industrial Revolution, the hours worked were directly tied to output. Unlike farming, that has off seasons: a time to work and a time to rest, with the introduction of factories, workers could be producing all year long. 

During the early 1800s, people, including children, were working 6 days a week, 10 to 16 hours each day. I will not get into the conditions of the working environments, but there were no were no standard or safety requirements during this time. Labor reform efforts got under way in the United States by the mid-1800s. And workers started to put pressure on their Congress to limit the work day to 8 hours. 

By the late 1800s, Congress had passed legislation to limit the working day to 8 hours for some Federal employees. And slowly, through strikes and pressure different labor unions successfully won the 8 hour work day for their respective fields although the majority of Americans still worked 12-14 hours per day. 

Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 which required employers to pay overtime to employees working over 44 hours per week, and the Act was later revised to 40 hours per week in 1940. 



The 40 hour work week was enacted to protect the worker from the extreme working hours introduced by the Industrial Revolution. The question remains is the 40 hour work week still an effective paradigm, if it ever was.  Contact the attorneys at LifeBackLaw and see us at and let us help you get your life back.


Topics: What is a 40 hours work week?, What was the real reason for the 40-hour work, How do you structure a 40-hour work week?

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