FLSA On Call Time and Waiting Time
Time which an employee is required to be at work or allowed to work for his or her employer is hours worked. A person hired to do nothing or to do nothing but wait for something to do or something to happen is still working. This is often known as waiting time, or “waiting to be engaged” to work. The Supreme Court has stated that employees subject to the FLSA must be paid for all the 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 of his business.” Thus, in many circumstances, an employee is entitled to pay for waiting to work.
Pay for On Duty Waiting Time
When you are already on duty, but waiting for work to do, for repairs to be made, etc. you are engaged to wait and the time is hours worked.
- A receptionist who reads a book while waiting for customers or telephone calls.
- A messenger who works a crossword puzzle while awaiting assignments.
- A firefighter who plays checkers while waiting for alarms.
- A factory worker who talks to fellow employees while waiting for machinery to be repaired.
- A waitperson in a restaurant doing nothing while waiting for customers to arrive.
The rule is the same for employees who work away from their employer’s premises. For example:
- Time spent by a repair person who has to wait for his or her employer’s customer to get the premises ready is probably hours worked.
- Time spent by a truck driver who has to wait at or near the job site for goods to be loaded or unloaded is hours worked.
- Time spent by a bus driver who reaches his or her destination and while awaiting the return trip stays with the bus to guard the bus and any items left on the bus is hours worked.
In each of these situations, the employee is engaged to wait and the time is hours worked. Waiting is an essential part of the job.
The time is hours worked even though you are allowed to leave the premises or the job site during such periods of inactivity. The period during which the inactivity occurs is unpredictable and is usually of short duration. In either event, you are unable to use the time effectively for your own purposes. The time belongs to and is controlled by your employer.
Off Duty Waiting Time
Off duty waiting time or layover time is a period during which you are waiting to be engaged and is not hours worked.
Off duty waiting time or layover time is not hours worked if:
- You are completely relieved from duty;
- The periods are long enough to enable you to use the time effectively for your own purposes;
- You are definitely told in advance that you may leave the job; and
- You are advised of the time that you are required to return to work.
Your employer must meet all of the above requirements or you are working while waiting. Whether the time is long enough to enable you to use the time effectively for your own purposes depends upon all of the facts and circumstances of the case.
For example, you are a truck driver sent from Washington, D.C., to New York City, leaving at 6:00 a.m. and arriving at 12:00 noon. If you are completely and specifically relieved from all duty until 6:00 p.m. when you again go on duty for the return trip, you are waiting to be engaged and the time is not hours worked.