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Paying to Get Ready for Work

Question:

I have an employee telling me that I should be paying them for the time it takes them to go to their locker and get ready for work.  Is that true?

Answer:

Paying employees for the time they work seems pretty straight forward, however, the activities that they perform before or after their shift to ‘get ready for work’ can create a lot of question as to whether or not the time spent must be paid time by the employer.  The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) provides guidance but the topic is still very murky and in some instances require a consult with your attorney to make sure you get it right.

The ‘go-to’ document to provide you guidance is the Portal to Portal Act and verbiage around compensation for all time spent within a continuous workday.  The topic that becomes most questionable is what activities are deemed “integral and indispensable” for the job and it is verbiage that many times is interpreted by the court and is specific to the industry and even sometimes the job.  Those activities that are deemed integral and indispensable are those that must be paid time for the employee.  As an example, if the employee is REQUIRED to wear certain clothes or certain equipment, the time spent in putting those items on must be paid time.  If it is something they prefer to wear, it is not necessarily work time or time that is paid.

As an employer, you need to look carefully at what employees do before or after they clock in or clock out for the day.  If they cannot perform their jobs without wearing certain items or equipment, it should be paid.  Dive in deeper to determine what it is that they are doing and then make a determination on whether or not it should be paid or not.  And as always…keep in mind that outside of the legal requirements, payment for such activities may just be “the right thing to do” in your workplace.

Are you hesitant when it comes to navigating FLSA and other federally mandated rules and regulations? strategic HR inc. understands your uncertainty. Ask us for assistance for any of your benefits and compensation needs including evaluating the exemption status of your jobs relative to the proposed changes. Please visit our Benefits & Compensation page for more information on any of these services.