HR Support on FLSA Sleeping Time Laws

Editor's Note: Do employers really have to pay employees to sleep? Sometimes, yes.

Michael CardmanOverview: The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) typically requires employers that allow employees to sleep while on duty for less than 24 hours to pay the employees for the time spent sleeping.

For example, consider a factory security guard who works a 16-hour shift from 8 a.m. to midnight.

During the first leg of his shift, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., he patrols the factory grounds.

During the second leg of his shift, from 4 p.m. to midnight, he is allowed to relax, and even sleep, in the security guard barracks, as long as he is prepared to serve as backup in the event of an emergency.

The security guard must be paid for the entire 16-hour shift, even if he is sleeping during part of that time.

If an employee works a shift of 24 hours or more, then the employer and the employee may agree to exclude from hours worked meal periods and regularly scheduled sleeping periods of eight hours or less, if the employer:

  • Provides adequate sleeping facilities that allow an employee to enjoy an uninterrupted night's sleep; and
  • The employee is able to get more than five hours of uninterrupted sleep.

Trends: Several states have their own requirements about sleeping time. Most are similar, but not identical, to the FLSA. Employers must be careful to comply with the provision that is more favorable to the employee.

Author: Michael Cardman, Legal Editor

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HR guidance on complying with the FLSA requirements on compensating employees for sleeping time.