The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) generally requires that non-exempt employees receive a minimum wage for all hours worked plus time-and-a-half overtime for all hours worked in excess of 40 hours in a workweek.  Here are some general principles that can help employers determine whether time constitutes “hours worked” under the FLSA:

  • Time Spent for the Employer’s Benefit is Usually Work Time:  The FLSA does not define “work,” but the U.S. Supreme Court has defined the term to refer to “physical or mental exertion (whether burdensome or not) controlled or required by the employer and pursued necessarily and primarily for the benefit of the employer and his business.”  Tennessee Coal, Iron & R. Co. v. Muscoda Local No. 123, 321 U.S. 590, 598 (1944).
  • Time Spent for the Employee’s Benefit is Usually Not Work Time:  “Hours worked” generally do not include “[p]eriods during which an employee is completely relieved from duty and which are long enough to enable him to use the time effectively for his own purposes.  29 C.F.R. § 785.16(a).
  • Work Need Not Be Requested To Constitute “Hours Worked:”  “Work not requested but suffered or permitted is work time.”  However, the employer must either know or have reason to believe that work is being performed.  29 C.F.R. § 785.11.
  • Work Is Ordinarily Measured in Continuous Blocks of Time:  “Hours worked” generally includes all time between an employee’s first and last “principal activity,” except bona fide meal breaks and bona fide off-duty time.  IBP, Inc. v. Alvarez, 546 U.S. 21, 37 (2005); see also 29 U.S.C. § 254.