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Understanding the basics of the FLSA

The Fair Labor Standards Act requires employers to pay non-exempt workers at least the federal hourly minimum wage for their time worked in a workweek. Additionally, they must pay overtime when employees work more than 40 hours. To keep track of all hours employees work, Pennsylvania employers must understand what counts as hours worked.

Any time that workers spend doing job duties is considered hours worked. The time workers spend under the control or direction of their employers or acting in their employers' interests also counts toward this tally. Even if restaurant waiters are not serving customers, for example, they are spending time under the control of the employer, which means that they are still paid for those hours. The same goes for a truck driver waiting for 30 minutes while his trailer is loaded. He must receive pay for that time if he cannot leave the vicinity and may be called back to work at any time. Workers like this are virtually on call and unable to use that time efficiently for personal reasons.

However, on-call employees are not always paid. Many workers carry pagers or cellphones so that their employers can contact them when they are needed. These workers can typically use their time as they choose, so their employers do not have control over how they spend their time. Their employers only pay them for the time they spend responding to calls and performing job duties.

Employers must also pay employees for travel time beyond their ordinary commutes because the employees are acting in the interests of their employers. A worker who spends four hours on a flight to a business meeting, for instance, should receive pay for those four hours. However, the employee does not receive pay for personal time spent at the hotel or other places other than the meeting location.

Workers who believe that their employers are not paying them for all hours worked could file salary and wage dispute claims with the Department of Labor or applicable state agency. They might feel more confident having the assistance of an employment law attorney.

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