HR Support on Activities Before and After a Shift

Editor's Note: Do employers have to pay employees for activities that take place before a shift starts and then after a shift ends?

Michael CardmanOverview: Activities employees perform before and after they start and finish their shifts - known as preliminary and postliminary activities - can sometimes count as compensable working time under Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) regulations.

Time an employee spends traveling to and from the actual place where he or she works does not count as hours worked, regardless of whether the employee is on or off the employer's premises before clocking in or after clocking out.

So, for example, if an employee clocks out on the factory floor, she does not need to be paid for the time it takes for her to walk from the factory floor to the parking lot before driving home.

But when employees perform any activity that is "integral and indispensable" to their principal activity (the work they were hired to do), then they must be paid for the time they spend performing activities before or after that integral and indispensable activity.

In other words, if an employee must put on and take off protective gear in the company locker room, then she must then be paid for the time it takes him to walk from the locker room to his job site and back at the end of the day.

Trends: Meat- and poultry-processing plants continue to be the targets of collective actions under the FLSA that allege failure to pay for preliminary and postliminary activities, usually related to the time employees spend putting on and taking off protective gear.

Author: Michael Cardman, Legal Editor

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HR guidance on complying with the FLSA requirements for employee activities before and after a shift.