Hours Worked Under FLSA

The definition of hours worked comes from the statutory definition of the term "employ", meaning "to suffer or permit to work." Work time ordinarily includes all time during which an employee is required to be on duty or at a prescribed work place. However, hours worked may extend outside of scheduled work hours if the individual continues to do work activities that serves to benefit the university.  The following provides guidance from the US Department of Labor on what constitutes time worked. 

Meal Periods

Bona fide meal periods of 30 minutes or more are not considered work time. The employee must be completely relieved from duty for the purpose of eating regular meals. The employee is working if he/she is required to perform any duties, whether active or inactive, while eating.  Employees interrupted for work purposes during an unpaid meal period must be paid for the entire 30-minute period.

Rest Periods

Rest periods of 20 minutes or less are customarily paid as working time. These short periods must be counted as hours worked. Unauthorized extensions of authorized work breaks are not counted as hours worked when the employer has clearly communicated to the employee that the authorized break may only last for a specific length of time or is contrary to the employer's rules, and any unauthorized extension of the break may be cause for discipline or other corrective action.

Emails, Phone calls, Remote Access

When an employee is checking, creating and/or responding to work emails or phone calls outside of regular work hours, it is considered work time and must be compensated. 

Workflow Transactions

When an employee is initiating, reviewing and/or processing Workflow transactions outside of regular work hours, it is considered work time and must be compensated. 

Lectures, Meetings and Training Programs

Attendance at lectures, meetings, training programs and similar activities is considered working time unless all four of the following criteria are met: it is outside normal hours, it is voluntary, not job related, and no other work is concurrently performed.

Conferences

When an employee is attending a conference as part of their job responsibilities, the employee is compensated for all required events that involve training or a speaker. The employee is not compensated for optional social events, meals without speakers or meals when work/training is not being performed.

On-Call Time

An employee who is required to remain on call on the employer's premises is working while on call.  An employee who is required to remain on call at home, or who is allowed to leave a message where he/she can be reached, is not working while on call. Additional constraints on the employee's activities could require this time to be compensated.

Home to Work Travel

Time spent by an employee who travels from home before the regular workday and returns to his/her home at the end of the workday, is not work time.  Travel during the work day is treated as work time.

Home to Work on a Special One Day Assignment in Another City

An employee who regularly works at a fixed location in one city is given a special one day assignment in another city and returns home the same day. The time spent in traveling to and returning from the other city is work time, except that the employer may deduct/not count that time the employee would normally spend commuting to the regular work site.

Travel That is All in a Day's Work

Time spent by an employee in travel as part of their principal activity, such as travel from job site to job site during the workday, is work time and must be counted as hours worked.

Travel Away from the Home Community

Travel that keeps an employee away from home overnight is work time when it cuts across the employee's workday. Not only are travel hours considered time worked on regular working days, but also during corresponding hours of nonworking days (e.g. Saturday or Sunday).

Drivers – All travel hours are considered work time regardless of when the travel occurs.  The clock begins at the point the employee leaves and ends when the employee arrives at the final destination.  Any time spent on personal business does not count as hours worked unless there is a layover during airline travel. 

Passengers – All travel hours are counted as work time when it cuts across the employee’s normal working hours, on any day of the week, including weekends.  Travel that occurs outside of the employee’s normal working hours as a passenger is not compensable whether it is on a common carrier or in a car.  If an employee is actively engaged in work activities as a passenger, the time is considered work time regardless of what time of day the work takes place.

Airline Travel – “Travel time” is defined as including the time the employee arrives at the airport to the time the employee reaches his or her destination. If an employee is traveling to a location, then the destination is either the hotel or the worksite (if the employee travels directly from the airport to work). If the employee is returning home from a location, the destination is the airport of final arrival.

Travel between home and work or between the hotel and worksite is considered normal commuting time and is not eligible for compensation.

Travel Example # 1 (all times CST) – An employee’s normal work schedule is Monday through Friday from 8:00 to 5:00 with an hour lunch break.  The employee leaves their house on Saturday at 7:00 a.m. and arrives at the airport at 7:30 a.m.  The flight leaves at 8:30 a.m. and there is a layover from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.  The second leg of the flight arrives at 4:30.  The employee gets their checked bags and takes a cab to the hotel and arrives at 5:30 p.m.  The employee was in travel status for the entire 8 hours of their regular work day.

Travel Example # 2 (all times CST) – An employee’s normal work schedule is Monday through Friday from 8:00 to 5:00 with an hour lunch break.  The employee leaves their house on Saturday at 9:00 a.m. and arrives at the airport at 9:30 a.m.  The flight leaves at 10:30 a.m. and there is a layover from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.  The second leg of the flight arrives at 6:30.  The employee gets their checked bags and takes a cab to the hotel and arrives at 7:30 p.m.  The employee was in travel status for 6.5 hours (9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. minus an hour for their regularly scheduled lunch).

Volunteer Work

Generally, individuals are not able to waive their right to overtime compensation by volunteering their time to continue work activities.  Unpaid volunteer activities are only permissible if there is a clear understanding of what constitutes a true volunteer activity.

  1. The volunteer activity is not an extension of their regular work responsibilities.
  2. There is no expectation that the employee will volunteer.
  3. There is no penalty or differential treatment if someone does not volunteer.
  4. When individuals do volunteer, they choose what they volunteer for.  The department cannot dictate where they are placed or it may be construed as a work assignment.

Resource

DOL Reference: https://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs22.htm