Daylight Savings Time: Change Your Clocks… It’s the Law!

Personal injury lawyer holding clock in Huntsville ALThe nation is set to roll the clocks forward this weekend, Sunday, March 9, 2018, at 2:00 A.M. But, did you know that “changing the clocks” is actually mandated by federal law? With the time change coming up, I thought it would be fun to do a little digging on the legal history of daylight saving time.The current structure for time zones in this country (there are 9) and Daylight Saving Time (DST) is governed by The Uniform Time Act of 1966.

Time zones and daylight saving time was originally created by Congress in 1918 with the Standard Time Act, though that law was repealed shortly thereafter, leaving states and municipalities to legislate it themselves. The lack of uniformity and predictability with respect to the time created numerous headaches for interstate travel and commerce, so Congress passed The Uniform Time Act as a way to help regulate and simplify interstate transportation and commerce in the country. Coincidentally, the United States Department of Transportation was formed in 1966 as well, with the authority to enforce The Uniform Time Act the next year.[1]

So, what happens if you don’t change your clocks this coming weekend? Well, on a personal level, you might be late for church or that baby shower this weekend, but the federal government isn’t likely to arrest you. However, for larger entities, such as towns, municipalities, corporations, etc. that—for whatever reason—chose not to follow the time change, the Secretary of Transportation can apply to the federal district court for an injunction to force that entity to recognize federal law and change their time accordingly.

States can apply for exemptions to The Uniform Time Act under certain circumstances, for instance, if the state lies within two zones. Arizona is one such state that does not change the clocks for DST, however, a majority of the Navajo Indian reservation in Arizona does recognize the time change, which has notoriously created a ton of confusion. It’s known as the “time doughnut”.

In 2012, a district court in Massachusetts used The Uniform Time Act to dismiss a complaint against a debt collector for unfair collection practices. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act restricts collectors from calling at unreasonable times, past 9:00 PM in this particular case. The collector was based in Eastern Standard Time and called at 9:39 PM to a customer in Central Standard Time in Alabama at 8:39 PM. The customer argued that her town of Valley, Alabama actually adhered to Eastern Standard Time, but the court rejected that argument citing The Uniform Time Act and noting that Alabama was not an exempt state.

You can find some other fun facts and history about daylight saving time here.


[1] Daylight Savings by National Geographic