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Under the FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act), all non-exempt employees who work more than 40 hours in a given work week must be paid 1.5 times (“time-and-a-half”) for every hour of overtime they work.  One way unscrupulous employers have found to deny their employees the overtime pay to which they are entitled is to fail to consider certain “types” of work time when calculating how many hours an employee has worked in a week.  It is important for employees to understand what time counts towards “hours worked” so that they can protect their best interests and recover the full overtime pay they are entitled to.

Work Time

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.

Volunteer Time

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.

Meal Time

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.

Travel Time

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.

Break Time

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.

Sleep Time

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.

Training Time

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.

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