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Report Hours Worked Accurately — It’s The Law

Report Hours Worked Accurately — It’s The Law

According  to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), a federal law governing employment standards, and corresponding state laws, an employer is required to pay employees at least minimum wage for all hours worked.

In addition, certain employees are entitled to overtime compensation (1.5 times their normal hourly rate) for all hours worked over 40 in a single week.  

There are many tasks that employers routinely fail to consider as “work time” but are indeed subject to payment, according to the FLSA.  Failure to consider that time as hours worked when paying the employee can lead to unintentional violations of the law with substantial penalties for the employer.

What constitutes “hours worked” under the FLSA? It is “time spent by the employee in furtherance of the employer’s interests.”  Some tasks that are routinely overlooked include meal breaks, travel, training and on-call time.

On The Road
Normally an employee’s travel time to and from work is not counted as work hours.  Under the Portal to Portal Act, an employer is not required to count travel to or from the actual place of performance of the job as hours worked if it is either prior to the time the employee starts work or after the time the employee ceases work. 

However, an employer will be required to count the employee’s travel time as hours worked if the activities performed before or after his or her regular work shift are an “integral and indispensable” part of the employer’s principal activities.

Here are some examples:

  • It is considered “work time” when an employee leaves the job site and travels to the employer’s place of business to deliver or drop off supplies. 
  • An employer is required to count travel time to and from an employee’s job site and his or her house if that job site is substantially farther than the employee’s normal home to work travel.  
  • Time spent traveling during work hours for the company must be counted as work time.

When Mealtimes Count
There are certain circumstances in which an employer must consider an employee’s time for meal periods as hours worked. The test to determine if such time must be considered hours worked is whether the meal period is used predominately or primarily for the benefit of the employer. 

When an employee is completely relieved of all duties during the meal period, that time does not count towards working time. This is true even when an employer requires the employee to stay at the work site during the meal break, as long as the employee is completely relieved of all duties during that period. 

But when an employee’s meal period is of a short duration and the employee continues to work for the benefit of the employer during that period, then the employer must count that time as hours worked.

Under the FLSA, an employee’s training time must almost always be counted as hours worked.  The exception is when the training is outside of the work day and is completely voluntary.

For instance, training that is not directly related to the employee’s job or when the employee does not do any work that is productive and beneficial to the company during the training program is not considered work time. 

However, training time may be considered required and not voluntary if the employee can infer from the conduct of the employer that his employment, or the conditions of his employment, would be adversely affected if he fails to attend the program.

On-Call Time 
Whether an employee’s on-call time is considered working hours depends on whether the restrictions placed on the employee are so onerous that they effectively prevent the employee from using his time for personal business.

The employer must count an employee’s on-call time as hours worked if the time is spent primarily for the benefit of the employer. 

Factors that must be considered when determining whether on-call time must be considered working time include:

  • The extent of any restrictions that an employer places on the employee’s geographical proximity to the employer. 
  • The amount of time within which an employee is required to respond to a call from the employer.
  • The frequency of calls the employee receives during the on-call time.
  • The extent that the employee’s personal activities are limited during the on-call time.

These are just a few examples of compensable working time under the FLSA. An employer’s computation of work time particularly impacts the determination of when an employee reaches the overtime threshold.

It is important to remember that if you are not calculating your employees’ hours worked accurately, and, therefore, possibly also under-reporting their hours, you may not be in compliance with either the minimum wage or overtime requirements of the FLSA. 

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