Do I Have To Pay Them For That?

Lisa BoganyWith so many rules and exemptions under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), it can be a challenge for an employer to verify that they are indeed following the proper wage and hour guidelines. Let’s review some of the most frequent scenarios employers encounter when determining “Hours Worked.”

I was running late to open up the office and my receptionist had been waiting for over an hour for me to arrive and open up shop. Do I have to pay her for the time she waited?

Whether waiting time is hours worked under FLSA depends upon the particular circumstances. Facts may show that the employee was engaged to wait which is work time, or that the employee was waiting to be engaged which is not work time. For example, a secretary who reads a magazine while waiting on the phone to ring, or an EMS Tech who plays dominoes while waiting for the alarm to sound is working during such periods of inactivity. These employees have been “engaged to wait” and must be paid for these hours. In this case, pay the lady.

I instructed our maintenance tech that due to the freeze, I may call him over the weekend to go check on the building’s pipes. I never did call him. Do I still have to pay him for the hours he was waiting on my call?

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 (in most cases) while on call. Additional constraints on the employee’s freedom (i.e. you instruct your employee to not leave the area) could require this time to be compensated. No pay for the techy.

When we are short-staffed, I ask my Medical Assistant to eat her lunch at the front desk so she can answer phones. Do I need to pay her for this?

Bona fide meal periods (typically 30 minutes or more) generally need not be compensated as work time. For this to ring true, the employee must be completely relieved from duty for the purpose of eating regular meals. The employee is not relieved if he/she is required to perform any duties, wether active or inactive, while eating. Simply put – the MA gets paid.

Due to budget cuts, we suspended training reimbursement. Our QC Inspector decided to attend a 2-day weekend course on government standards anyway. Now the employee wants to be paid for the hours they attended since they will not be reimbursed. Do I have to pay them for that?

Attendance at lectures, meetings, training programs, and similar activities need not be counted as working time if all four of the following criteria are met: It is outside normal hours, it is voluntary, it is not job related, and no other work is concurrently performed. The Inspector did not have all four – no pay.

If you would like more assistance in determining your employee’s “hours worked,” contact the Employer Services Division at (713) 688-6890 or e-mail us at

Lisa Bogany is a Senior Business Consultant for Workforce Solutions in the Houston metropolitan area. She has over five years of experience in workforce development, primarily working with employers, and over 10 years experience in small business entrepreneurship.

Author: Blogforce

Workforce Solutions provides comprehensive human resource services for businesses and residents of the 13-county Houston-Galveston Gulf Coast region. Workforce Solutions helps employers solve workforce-related business problems and area residents build careers, so that both can better compete in the changing worldwide economy. Our Employer Service Division provides personalized service to help employers find qualified applicants for their jobs, build the skills and expertise of their new and current employees, and address human resource needs. We operate multiple community-based career offices in 13 Texas Gulf Coast counties to help residents get a job, keep a job or get a better job – offering placement, career counseling and financial aid services. We partner with the region’s businesses, educational institutions, civic organizations and community leaders to find solutions to current and future labor needs of industries that are vital to the region and its economy.

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