Compensable Hours

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Compensable time refers to the hours of work for which an employee must be paid under the FLSA. This topic is covered in the regulations found at 29 C.F.R. part 785. Compensable hours of work include all times during which the employee is on duty or on the employer’s premises available for work or time spent away from the employer’s premises under conditions that prevent the employee from using the time for personal activities. The concept of “hours worked” is a crucial determining factor in complying with the FLSA. An employee must be compensated for “all time spent in 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.” Tennessee Coal, Iron & R.R. Co. v. Muscoda Local No. 123, 321 U. S. 590 (1944).  Employees who, even though voluntarily, continue to work after their shift is over are engaged in compensable working time. The reason for the work is immaterial; as long as the employer “suffers or permits” employees to work on its behalf, proper compensation must be paid. Management must make certain that overtime work it does not want performed is not in fact performed. Mere promulgation of a rule to that effect is not sufficient to avoid compensation for additional hours worked.

Work not requested or required by the employer but allowed or permitted is work time under the FLSA. This rule also applies to work performed away from the premises or the job site, or even at home. If the employer knows or has reason to believe that work is being performed, the work must be counted as hours worked.

In an Opinion Letter dated August 11, 1993 (FLSA-1112), the DOL stated that training and care of a police dog at home by a canine patrol officer is considered part of the officer’s principal activities and is therefore compensable work time under the FLSA. However, DOL noted that this kind of work does not necessarily have to be compensated at the same rate of pay as paid for law enforcement activities, and that the employer and employee can work out a reasonable agreement as to compensable hours worked at home.