An employee must be paid for all of the time they spend performing job-related activities. This also includes “off the clock” time if the employee uses that time to perform activities that benefit the employer. Work time also includes work done from home or another off-site location, time spent waiting for work (“nonproductive time”), and work that is voluntary or unauthorized. Only time spent actually working counts towards an employee’s hours worked, so leave time and meal time are not factored in to this figure.
It is not legal for an employee to volunteer his or her time for an employer without pay. Any time spent on duties or activities the employee regularly performs as part of his or her job must be counted as hours worked.
Under the FLSA, any break longer than 30 minutes is not counted towards hours worked. However, if an employee takes a break that is shorter than 30 minutes or does not take a break at all, that employee must be paid for his or her work time. Likewise, an employee who “works through lunch” is entitled to full pay for that time and that time must count towards hours worked when overtime pay rates are calculated.
Work Done Off the Clock
Employees must be paid for all hours they work. This includes employees who begin to work before their official start time or who stay later than their official stop time to continue to perform job duties. Pre-shift meetings, time spent setting up for work, and time cleaning up at the end of a shift also count towards hours worked. If an employee is contacted after hours for reasons related to his or her job, that time also counts towards hours worked for the week.
Time spent commuting to and from work is not compensable, but many other types of travel time do count towards an employee’s hours worked. If an employee performs work before traveling to another job site or performs work after leaving that job site, he or she must be paid for that time. Work done during travel (like on a plane) also counts towards hours worked. Employees must also be paid for time spent traveling from one work site to another in the same day and for one-day assignments in a different city. If work-related travel spans more than one day, any travel spent during normal working hours (regardless of whether it occurs on a weekend), counts towards hours worked.
Employees must be paid for break time if the break is 20 minutes or shorter. It is not legal for an employer to combine spent on more than one break so that they can deduct this time from an employee’s hours worked.
Time Spent On Call
If an employee is “on-call” but is able to effectively use that time for his or her own purposes, that time does not contribute to hours worked. If, however, the employee is not able to use that time for personal activities or purposes, he or she must be paid for that time.
Vacations, Holidays, and Sick Time
While many employers give their employees paid time off, this is not legally required. Thus, hours spent on paid vacations, holidays, and sick time do not count towards a 40 hour work week.
Some employees work shifts that are 24 hours or more. If these employees are provided with adequate sleeping facilities, the FLSA allots up to 8 hours of “sleep time exclusion” so that hours spent sleeping are not compensable. However, if an employee on a 24 hour shift is not allotted the opportunity to sleep for at least 5 hours, all sleep time must count towards hours worked. These laws only apply to employees who work shifts that are 24 hours or longer.
As a general rule, all time dedicated to employee training or education directly related to that employee’s job must count towards hours worked. Training time does not count towards hours worked if it meets one of the following criteria:
- The training is truly voluntary
- The training is not part of the employees regular work schedule
- The training does not directly relate to that employees current job
- The employee does not do any other work during training time
Contact a Wage & Hour Lawyer
The laws concerning which hours count towards hours worked are complicated and may be easily misinterpreted or misunderstood. If you believe you were not paid for hours you worked, contact a wage and hour lawyer so that he or she can investigate the situation and determine whether you were denied pay to which you were entitled.