EntertainHR: The Long Night Brings Long Hours – Lessons in Wage and Hour Law from True Detective Season 4

The long-awaited return of the hit anthology series, True Detective, is finally back.


In True Detective: Night Country, showrunner Issa Lopez places viewers directly in the heart of Alaska during the polar night, a period of complete darkness lasting two full months. During this period of perpetual night, leads Jodi Foster and Kali Reis, who play Police Chief Liz Danvers and Trooper Evangeline Navarro, respectively, guide us through the investigation of the disappearance of a team of scientists from a remote research station, just outside the fictional town of Ennis, Alaska.

True to the show’s roots, Night Country details the personal and professional lives of its detectives, highlighting the deep-seated tension between Danvers and Navarro, slowly revealing the history between the two as they are forced to work together to solve this puzzling mystery. Lopez also explores the Inupiat people, a group of Indigenous Alaskans, and gives viewers a glimpse into the culture and life of the Inupiat, as the home and well-being of these Indigenous Alaskans are threatened by an oil mine that may or may not be connected to the disappearances.

As with the predecessor seasons, Night Country focuses on the drudgery and strain of conducting an investigation. This includes long hours of work and the need to immediately stop what one is doing to investigate any new developments in the case. An ongoing theme is the dedication of young Officer Pete Prior, played by Finn Bennett, to both the case and the demands of Chief Danvers. Pete is married to Kayla Malee, played by Anna Lambe, with whom he shares a young son. As the officers dive deeper and deeper into their investigation, Pete works longer and longer hours, answering calls from Danvers at all hours and neglecting to return home until the early morning hours. This creates increasing tension between Pete and Kayla, but it also highlights an important aspect of employment law.

Long hours are part and parcel of many different occupations. As True Detective showed viewers over the years, police work is no exception. It is important to remember that, although long hours may be part of the job, federal wage and hour laws still apply. More specifically, the Fair Labor Standards Act, FLSA, mandates that all non-exempt employees earn at least the minimum wage for all hours worked in a week. Additionally, for non-exempt employees who work more than 40 hours in a week, employers must pay time and a half for any hours worked over 40. What does this mean for our Pete and Navarro? Well, the long hours they work entitle them to more money. The Ennis Police Department is well advised to ensure it pays its officers accordingly, lest the next investigation the EPD tackles involves the Department of Labor.

Jake Koch is an associate at Fordharrison.

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