FLSA Hours Worked

What Does FLSA “Hours Worked” Mean?

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), “hours worked” refers to the amount of time an employee spends performing job-related activities for which they earn pay. Non-exempt employees must be paid at least the minimum wage for both required and permitted work.

Required work could refer to a standard 9-5 shift. On the other hand, permitted work is any job-related activity that was not requested by an employer but allowed to be performed. For instance, an employee voluntarily finishing up a project beyond the end of their shift with permission from their employer may constitute as permitted, payable work time.


While many companies offer paid time off (e.g., for sickness, vacation, or personal time) to attract and retain top talent, that time does not count as FLSA hours worked.

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Categories of Hours Worked

FLSA hours worked fall under several categories including, but not limited to:

Waiting Time

If an employee is “engaged to wait,” this time spent is considered compensable labor hours. For instance, if a customer service representative is reading a book in their cubicle while waiting for their next caller, that counts as payable time. In contrast, if an employee is “waiting to be engaged,” they're off the clock and not entitled to compensation.

On-Call Time

On-call employees may or may not be compensated for their time, depending on the circumstance. This is usually if an employee can't use their time freely while waiting for work. For example, on-call employees required to be at their workplace (instead of waiting at home with their phone nearby) are typically considered working and should receive on-call pay.

Rest and Meal Periods

Short breaks lasting 20 minutes or less typically count as working time. However, if an employee exceeds the authorized time limit on the job, you don't have to pay them for the extra time they took.

Dedicated meal periods lasting 30 minutes or more are not usually counted as hours worked as long as the employee is completely relieved of their job duties while they eat. If they’re required to do any work-related tasks while eating, you must pay them for the meal period.

Lectures, Meetings, and Training Programs

Employee attendance is considered hours worked under the FLSA except in instances where a meeting or training session meets all four of the following criteria:

  1. It occurs outside normal working hours.
  2. It's voluntary.
  3. It's not job-related.
  4. It doesn't require the employee to perform work at that time.

For more information about compensable FLSA hours worked, visit the US Department of Labor.

How Many Hours Can You Legally Work in a Day?

The FLSA doesn't limit the number of labor hours per day for employees aged 16 and older. However, non-exempt employees working more than 40 hours per week are entitled to overtime pay. The overtime pay rate is 1.5 times an employee’s regular hourly rate (or time and a half) for all hours worked beyond the week’s 40-hour threshold.

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