In some circumstances, federal law requires employers to pay employees for time that they are not working. Generally, this time is spent under the employer’s control and is for the benefit of the employer. For instance, you may be paid for the time you spend on-call, time spent traveling for business, and in some cases, time spent sleeping. This usually does not apply to time spent commuting to and from work.

Examples of When Employers Must Pay for Non-Work Activities

Employee Wages for On-Call Time

If employees are required to stay on the employer’s premises, they may be entitled to receive pay for time spent working or not working. Employees that are in a different location than their employer’s premises, and have little to no control over their time or activities, must be paid. If any of the following restrictions are placed on employees while they are on-call, they must be paid:

  • Being prohibited from drinking alcohol;
  • Being required to remain within a certain distance of their job location; or
  • Not being allowed to work for another employee during the on-call time.

For instance, if you are a flight attendant, and are prohibited from drinking alcohol, and you must remain close to the airport while on-call, you should be paid for the time you are waiting to be called for a trip. If you drive a limo and are assigned to wait at the airport for a client to arrive, you should be paid for the time you spent waiting for her.

Employee Wages for Training and Education

If your employer has sent you to a lecture, seminar, or other training or learning session, they are required to pay you for the time you spent there, as well as for the time you spent going to and returning from the location.

Employee Wages for Travel Time

Usually, employees will not be paid for time spent commuting to work. If the job requires an employee to go to different locations or they go out on calls while working, they should be paid. If you are called into work in an emergency situation where you usually would not be working, you would likely be paid for travel time.

Additionally, if you are required to take employer-sponsored transportation from a central location with other employees, you should be paid for travel time.

Employee Wages for Meal and Rest Breaks

States vary on laws regarding pay for meal and rest breaks. Some laws have a set number of breaks and how long each break should be, as well as whether they are to be paid. In states where breaks are required but are not paid, employees must be free from all work obligations. If an employee is expected to continue working or performing other job-related tasks while on break, they must be paid.

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Employee Wages for Sleep Time

Businesses that require employees to work 24-hour shifts at the job site, may be required to pay employees for sleep time. For instance, an ambulance driver working a 24-hour shift would likely have an agreement with her employer that allows an 8 hour time slot for sleep.

The federal Department of Labor’s Wages and Hour Division requires an employee to be paid for a full shift if she worked for less than 24 hours, even if some of the time she spent on the job was sleeping. For instance, if a caregiver is scheduled to work a 23 hour shift, and he sleeps for 5 hours, he would be paid for those 5 hours.

In jobs that have shifts lasting more than 24 hours, the employee should be given an 8-hour timeframe to sleep, along with adequate sleeping facilities. For instance, if a construction worker is working a 72 hour shift, and receiving 8 hours of sleep for each of the three days, he would be paid for 16 hours each day. If he was called on by his employer on the third day, and did not get his full 8 hours of sleep, he should be paid for the full 24 hour shift.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Help Me Get the Wages I Deserve?

If you have any questions regarding pay for non-work activities, or have an issue with your employer regarding pay to which you are entitled, you should contact an employment lawyer as soon as possible. Your lawyer can advise you of your rights, determine the wages you are entitled to receive, and help you recover any money that is rightfully yours.