Many people question what workplace activities are covered when it comes to getting paid. In some of the following instances, you may be entitled to pay: showing up a little early, eating lunch while answering phones, attending a trade show or seminar, travel time, and taking work-related calls at home. Basically, if you are being productive on behalf of the company, you should  get paid regular wages or overtime pay for that productivity.

How Does the Law Define “Hours Worked?”

Employment law defines “hours worked” as the time during which one is employed and should therefore be paid. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) defines hours worked as to “suffer or permit” to work. State law may define hours worked as the time that the employee is under the employer’s control.

If an employer knows the employee is doing something productive, then the employee is putting in hours, and should be paid for that work. If however, the employer does not want to pay the employee for this extra “voluntary” work, then they must forbid the employee from coming in early, eating lunch at his desk, taking work calls at home, etc. In sum, if you are doing something productive for your employer, it is considered hours worked, and you should be compensated.

What Does Not Count as Hours Worked?

The FLSA requires employees to take a 10-minute break for every 4 hours worked, and lunch time is not paid. If the employee is not free and on their own time during lunch, then it will count as hours worked.

The time it takes to commute is not paid because where you live is your decision. However, if you travel on behalf of the business, such as to another business location, or overnight work (minus sleep, eating, and commute time, and any personal time), you should be compensated. For on-call employees, they may count hours worked for the time on-call if they were not allowed to engage in personal activities.

What are Some Examples of Activities That Qualify as Hours Worked?

Common activities that qualify as hours worked include:

  • Coming Into Work Early: Just like working late, if they are being productive, they should be compensated.
  • Monitoring the Phones While Eating: Though eating is considered personal time, if they are doing so while being productive, they should be compensated.
  • Meeting, Lecture, or Seminar Attended: If the employee attended at the request of the employer, and it was during business hours, then they are due compensation.
  • Taking Phone Calls at Home: Even though the employee is at home, they working if they’re taking work calls and should be paid.
  • Waiting Time: If an employee is waiting or standing by, it is hours worked if they are unable to use the time for their own purposes.

Should I Speak with an Attorney About the Unpaid Hours from My Employer?

If you have questions regarding any unpaid hours by your employer, and experienced employment attorney can advise you on your rights and options. If your employer has acted illegally, your lawyer can help you file your claim, and represent your best interests in court.