• How does the FLSA treat meal breaks and rest periods?

Short rest periods, ranging from 5 minutes to about 20 minutes, are common in industry and must be counted as hours worked. So short restroom and coffee breaks should not be deduced from the time worked.

However, bona fide meal periods are not work time. Such periods must be 30 minutes or more is longer and the employee must be completely relieved of all work duties. This ensures that the employee can use their meal period for their own purposes. The employee is not relieved if they are required to perform any duties, whether active or inactive, while eating. For example, an office employee who is required to eat at his desk or a factory worker who is required to be at his machine is working while eating is entitled to pay.

What about waiting time and on-call time?

Often employees are required to wait for their first or next work task of the workday. This may be called “waiting time” under the FLSA. Whether waiting time is time worked under the FLSA depends upon particular circumstances. The Court will look to the agreements between employer and employee, the nature of the work, its relation to the waiting time, and all of the circumstances.

When an employee is on duty, but is simply awaiting their next assignment, this time is compensable and must be paid. For example, an employee may be waiting for their next customer or waiting for a machine to finish, but they are still on duty and must be paid. Only when a period of inactivity is long enough to enable an employee to use the time effectively for their own purposes and they are completely relieved from their duties are they off-the-clock.

On-call time occurs when an employee is expected to be available to come into work, usually with short notice, to carry out their working duties. An employee who is required to remain on call on the employer’s premises or so close thereto that they cannot use the time effectively for their own purposes is working while ‘‘on call’’. Therefore, this time must be paid. But, an employee who is not required to remain on the employer’s premises, but is merely required to be reachable should they be needed is not working while on call.

How does travel time factor into my compensation?

While employees are not paid for their normal commute to work, employees may be paid during work-related travel. Under the Portal-to-Portal Act, employers are not required to pay for the time that an employee takes to travel to or from their home to a normal job site. However, if an employee is require to travel an inordinately long way to, different job site, that time may be compensable as time worked. This would include work trips that require an employee to travel out-of-town. But there may be some exceptions for travel periods that extend more than one work day.

Additionally, if an employer requires their employees meet at a particular location and travel together to a work site, or use an employer provided vehicle, this travel time may also be compensable. Similarly, the Portal-to-Portal Act requires employers to pay employees for their time spent traveling from one work site to the next.

Whether travel time is compensable as hours worked under the FLSA is often difficult to determine.

To read more about “hours worked” under the FLSA, please see U.S. Department of Labor Fact Sheet #22.

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