The author is a professor of management at Loyola University Chicago. He is also an arbitrator listed on the national panels of the American Arbitration Association and the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. In addition, he is a member of the National Academy of Arbitrators. He has published numerous articles on labor arbitration issues and a book, Arbitration in Health Care.
Traditionally, management has reserved the right to require employees to work overtime. Grievances arise when employees, at times, wish to refuse to work additional hours, feeling that they have fulfilled their obligation to the employer by working their regular hours or that they have competing personal interests which the overtime would impact adversely. Unions, which may not question management’s prerogative to schedule and require overtime, may contend that employers can recruit sufficient employees on a voluntary basis to satisfy most overtime needs. Conversely, employers may take the position that overtime must be compulsory at times because of skill requirements, emergencies, short-term labor demands, or the interdependence of operations. This paper explores the circumstances under which an employee can be required to work overtime and the disciplinary options available to the employer when an employee refuses to comply.
Collective agreements may or may not specify a requirement that employees are compelled to work overtime. In the absence of such explicit contract language, employers rely on the “right to direct the work force,” as typically found in management’s rights clauses, for the needed authority.