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What counts as “work time” under the FLSA?

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), employers are required to pay their nonexempt employees overtime for all hours worked over 40 in a workweek at a rate of one and a half times the employees regular rate of pay. The Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor has said that the workweek includes all time during which an employee is required to be on the employer’s premises, on duty, or at a prescribed work place. All work that is performed during the normal business hours is paid at the regular rate of pay, but what happens if a job or task takes longer to complete? If an employee wants to work past their scheduled time to finish a job, the reason is immaterial so long as the the hours worked are compensable work time. 

Often times, employees have questions about what is considered compensable time under the FLSA. Below are explanations for some of the more common categories of compensable work time:

1. Waiting time

 

Employees that are told to wait before an assignment is given are allowed to include this wait time as compensable work time. The DOL gave this example: a fireman who plays checkers while waiting for an alarm is working during his or her periods of inactivity. These employees have been engaged to wait; thus, the waiting time is compensable work time. 

2. On-Call time

 

Employees that are required to remain on-call while at their employer’s premises is allowed to include this time as compensable work time. There are some exceptions to employees who are on-call at home or are allowed to leave call back messages but generally, these hours are not counted towards compensable work time. 

3. Rest, Meal and Sleeping periods

When an employee takes a short rest period of 20 minutes or less, employers customarily have to pay for this working time. Employee meal times are generally not compensated as work time as the employee is not performing any work during this time. If, however, an employee remains at his or her desk during meal periods and regularly continues working, this is considered compensable work time. 

For sleeping periods, an employee who is required to be on duty for less than 24 hours is working even though he or she is permitted to sleep or engage in other personal activities when not busy. On the other hand, an employee who is required to be on duty longer than 24 hours may agree with the employer to exclude hours worked that were regularly scheduled sleeping periods of not more than 8 hours.  However, the employee has to have been completely relieved from any job duties during these periods. 

4. Travel time

An employee who travels from home to the office and then back home is engaged in ordinary home to work travel and this is not compensable work time. Employees who travel from job site to job site all while part of their principle activity are allowed to include this as compensable work time. 

While the above list is not an exhaustive list, it should give employees hope in knowing that certain acts are compensable work time and should be paid for. If you believe you have been denied compensable time for working long hours, consider speaking with an experienced overtime attorney today. Josh Borsellino is a lawyer in Fort Worth that works with workers to learn their rights under the FLSA. He offers free consultations and can be reached at 817.908.9861 or 432.242.7118.