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 include information on case law developments regarding the fact that an employer may not require an employee to remain on call or on an employer's premises during a rest break.
Updated to reflect a new law exempting domestic employees from the state's day of rest law, effective January 1, 2017.
In a landmark California case, a San Diego restaurant owner has been sentenced to two years in jail for promising wages to immigrant workers but paying them only in tips. This marks the first criminal conviction under the state's toughened wage theft law.
Updated to remove December 1, 2016, overtime requirements that will not be implemented or enforced.
Updated to reflect forthcoming working time requirements under the Seattle Secure Scheduling Ordinance.
This chart summarizes state "show-up time" or "reporting time" laws requiring payment to employees who report for duty but are not provided work.
Sometimes employees who are classified as exempt from the overtime requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) need to be reclassified as nonexempt. This Quick Reference chart provides details about the differences in workplace practices regarding employees classified as exempt or nonexempt.
HR guidance on complying with the FLSA hours worked requirements.