Under the Fair Labor Standard Act (FLSA), there are certain activities beyond normal work duties that are considered work time (otherwise known as "working hours") that must be paid or "compensable" for covered employees. These include waiting/on-call time; lactation breaks; rest and meal periods; lectures, trainings, and meetings; and travel and are described below.
1. Waiting/On-Call Time
Whether waiting/on-call time should be compensable depends on whether an employee is engaged to wait or waiting to be engaged. If the employee is engaged to wait or on call for work on the employer's premises and is restricted in activities, he/she should be paid. If the employee is waiting to be engaged, this time is not considered work time and is not compensable.
2. Rest and Meal Periods
Rest and meal breaks on a daily shift are enforced by law only in a handful of states, and Ohio is not one of them. A short duration of rest or meal breaks, usually 20 minutes or less, are considered "hours worked" and should be paid. Any unauthorized extensions need not be counted as work time. However, if the employee is not completely off-duty during rest or meal periods, such as required dinner with clients or on a business phone call while eating, the time must be covered.
3. Lectures, Trainings & Meetings
Generally, attendance at training programs, meetings, and other similar activities are counted as working hours unless four criteria are met:
- The program is scheduled after normal working hours
- It is voluntary and not mandatory
- It is not job-related
- The employee is not engaged in regular job function concurrently
Whether travel time is compensable depends on the activity with which the travel is associated. In most cases, time spent commuting to and from work during a regular day is not hours worked. However, in the following scenarios, when travel becomes a principal activity of the work, it should be considered working time and be compensable:
- Travel between job sites during normal working hours.
- Travel for business which keeps an employee away from home overnight, even beyond normal working hours/days. Time spent on the transportation as a passenger outside normal working hours is not counted.
- Travel for business to another city and return home the same day. Normal commuting time to the regular job site, if applicable, may be deducted by the employer.
5. Lactation Breaks
The Affordable Care Act requires employers to provide nursing mothers with reasonable breaks to breast feed their new-born children. The breaks are not required to be compensated, however, they must be covered if nursing mothers use the existing compensated breaks provided by employers.
Compliance issues under FLSA arise when employers fail to recognize the “true” number of hours employees worked. Be sure to consider these activities as “hours worked” which need to be compensated under FLSA.
Sources: US Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division. Fact Sheet #22 Hours Worked under FLSA; HR Hero (2008). When Must Employers Pay for Travel Time?
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