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Hours Worked: Federal

Hours Worked requirements by state

Author: Cheryl D. Orr, Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP


  • The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires employers to pay nonexempt employees the minimum wage for all hours worked. Employees also must be paid overtime pay for all hours worked beyond a certain limit, usually 40 hours in a workweek.
  • In most cases, it is fairly simple to determine what counts as hours worked. Employees must be paid for all the time spent in physical or mental exertion (whether burdensome or not) controlled or required by the employer and pursued necessarily and primarily for the benefit of the employer and his business. For example, if an employee is at a desk filling out paperwork or on the assembly line manufacturing goods, that time will count as hours worked. See Overview.
  • However, there are many situations in which it is not quite as simple to determine whether an employee needs to be paid. For example, employees need not be paid for time spent in certain break periods, as long as certain conditions are met. See Break Periods.
  • Similarly, employees may not need to be paid for time spent waiting or on call, depending on the circumstances. See Waiting Time and On-Call Time.
  • There are several other situations in which questions of hours worked may arise. See Travel Time; Training, Lectures and Meetings; Sleeping; Activities Before and After a Shift ('Preliminary and Postliminary'); Miscellaneous Working Time Issues.