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Understanding Security Guard Rights

How Many Hours a Week Should Security Guards Work? Understanding Security Guard Rights

If you have Security Guards on staff, you know the importance of managing schedules and maintaining hours worked. This article gives a refresher of some of the human resource rules for security guards. If you have an HR professional on staff or someone that manages shift schedules, this would be a good article for them to read.

Did you know that the United States employs nearly ten times more security guards than full-time law enforcement officers? In May 2016, over one million people worked as security guards compared to only 120,000 in law enforcement.

Security guards may resemble the police in uniform, but their clothing is where their similarities end. Men and women wearing a law enforcement badge have rights and obligations to uphold that a private citizen doesn’t.

At the same time, police officers see their schedules manipulated by multiple forces from a city or municipal funding to labor union negotiations. Because security guards work for private contractors, like yourself, they aren’t subject to these fluctuations or rights.

We’ll outline a simple overview for you to make sure you’re operating within the rules for security guard rights, and how those rights impact a security guard’s scheduled hours.

The Long-Haul: The 12-Hour Shift

You’re probably familiar with two types of shifts: eight-hour and twelve- hour shifts.

These shifts may occur overnight or during the day, and most come with an hourly-pay rate.

While 12-hour shifts are long, they do come with benefits. While other professions might not receive benefits because they’re assigned to part-time work, security guards are commonly hired as full-time employees. In fact, you may operate as many of the most prominent security guard companies, by not hiring part-time or temporary employees.

Are 12-Hour Shifts Legal?

According to the Fair Labor Standards Act, Twelve-hour shifts are legal in the United States. More importantly, there are no laws dedicated to regulating long shifts.

Federal law doesn’t require shift lengths or mandate breaks on the job. Rest periods between five and 20 minutes long must be paid, but 30-60 minute breaks don’t count as paid working hours.

State law mandates rest periods, but every state offers different advice on the matter.

For example, the state of California provides stringent detail. It requires employers to provide a second meal period of at least half an hour when scheduling an employee for more than 10 hours per day. The break is mandatory when shifts are longer than 12 hours, but both the employer and employee can forgo the second meal break if both consent.

At the same time, the state of Minnesota only requires that employers provide “sufficient unpaid time for employees who work eight consecutive hours or more”.

Who Can Work 12-Hour Shifts?

Anyone over the age of 16 can work these shifts.

Who works these shifts, and when, often depends on individual company policy. Some companies may use a rotation that doesn’t allow employees to work more than a certain number of hours in a 72-hour period.

What About State Law?

While federal law avoids regulating shift length, state labor boards often dive in.

In most cases, security guards fall outside of mandated or regulated shift times. Most regulation deals with high-risk or dangerous work, like sawmills or manufacturing or factory environments. Still, most states don’t concern themselves with working hours and leave it to businesses to dictate as they see fit.

Still, some state law protects employees from excessive work schedules. The state of Illinois mandates employers provide at least 24 hours of consecutive rest every seven days for full-time employees.

How Do Your Operating Procedures Measure Up?

Your shifts may not have limits, but security guards who work long weeks and long shifts are entitled to things like overtime pay, meal breaks, and accurate timesheet reporting.

If you’re seeing some holes in your operating procedures, it’s possible the Security Guards on staff may be entitled to additional pay or breaks. Visit the U.S. Department of Labor website to get a refresher on the rules in your state.

Overtime Is a Right

If any of your employees work over 40 hours a week, you must pay you overtime (time and a half). Overtime begins at one minute past your fortieth hour of work that weeks.

If your company pays base wage for hours over forty, then they may be illegally withholding pay.

Remember that overtime counts when the work performed is for one company. Even if staff are deployed to different client sites, you are still the one who cuts their paycheck. Thirty hours at one client site and thirty hours at another doesn’t mean staff are working two part-time jobs: sixty hours per week is paid by your company.

If your Security Guards on staff receive different wages at each site, overtime pay should feature your blended rate.

Reporting Shift Hours Is Essential

Are your timesheets clearly showing shift schedule vs. actual hours worked? Make sure it’s clear and not vague in showing the actual hours worked. This way your staff can never claim confusion when interpreting their timesheet.

If a Security Guard’s supervisor adjusts their timesheet, look carefully at how the changes impact pay. For example, if an employee arrives five minutes before or after a shift and it gets rounded up to the closest block of time, it’s often not a problem, but the reverse could be a sign of a potential liability.

Drive Time Is Paid Time

Are your staff driving between sites while on a shift? If they clocked in, then drive time is paid time.

As many companies keep security guards as contractors, this becomes tricky when staff are driving in between shifts and site. Many employers may construe it as driving to or from work, but the distinctions should be made clear with Security Guards on staff.

Another note to make is that if the clock is running, drive time does not count as a break. It’s important that drive time is paid time and also counts towards overtime.

Always Remember Withholding Pay Is Illegal

Regardless of the reason, anytime an employer or contractor withholds pay for completed work, those actions are likely illegal. Even if you’re moving payroll systems and computers will be down and prevent cutting checks, those transitions should be made with the knowledge that checks must be cut on time.

Prep time counts as paid time. Driving between sites while on shift is paid time. Not allowing break time but docking it from a timesheet anyway is wrong. Docking pay for workplace violations is against the law.

While it is technically legal to dock or reduce pay, labor laws restrict it in many scenarios, and not paying overtime isn’t included as a part of this rule.

The Department of Labor provides an FAQ sheet on the subject here.

Audit Your Procedures to Know Your Security Guard Operations are Sound

Security Guard rights are workers’ rights. Rights like overtime, fair working conditions, and time reporting receive protection from the law.

Looking for more resources for security companies? Use our website as a resource to learn more about managing a security company, employees, and more.

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