Overview: Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) regulations require employers to pay nonexempt employees at least the minimum wage for all hours worked. Usually, it's fairly simple to determine what counts as working hours. If an employee is at a desk filling out paperwork or on an assembly line manufacturing goods, then that time obviously counts as hours worked.
But there are many situations in which it is not quite so simple to figure out whether time counts as hours worked. What if an employee is taking a rest break, with her feet up on her desk? What if an employee is on call and must be ready to return to the office with little notice? What if an employee is traveling to a sales meeting in another city? What if an employee is attending a training session in the office? The answer: under the FLSA, it depends on the circumstances.
Trends: One of the most frequently litigated issues under the FLSA is whether activities that employees perform before and after a shift (known as preliminary and postlminary activities) are compensable. Meat- and poultry-processing companies are a frequent target of lawsuits alleging that employees should be paid for activities such as putting on protective gear before a shift, but these arguments could be extended to a variety of industries.
Author: Michael Cardman, Legal Editor
Updated to reflect forthcoming working time provisions in the West Virginia Safer Workplace Act.
Updated to reflect information on a court ruling clarifying the day of rest law.
This Quick Reference chart provides details about state meal and rest break requirements, including information about which employees are entitled to a break, the required duration of the breaks, and available exemptions.
Updated to reflect a new law clarifying the compensability of preliminary and postliminary activities, effective April 5, 2017.
The US Supreme Court has agreed to hear a trio of cases involving whether employers can use mandatory arbitration clauses to ban employees from bringing class action lawsuits over workplace disputes. A ruling is expected by the end of the Court's term in late June.
Updated to reflect a new law exempting domestic employees from the state's day of rest law, effective January 1, 2017.
HR and legal considerations for employers regarding FLSA rules on hours worked.