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Do you get paid for downtime?

On Behalf of | May 17, 2024 | Employment Law |

Depending on the type of job you do, you might not be sure exactly when you should or should not be getting paid. While many jobs involve a clear start and end time, with all time in between spent working, other jobs involve gray areas.

Almost every job has moments of downtime, and, generally, you should be getting paid for this time, if you are still considered “on the clock.” However, sometimes employers may try to avoid paying employees for times they are at work but not actively engaging in any work.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) provides some guidance about when you are considered working. Generally, if you are physically at your employer’s premises or otherwise considered on duty, this is time you should be paid for.

Most jobs require you to work between certain hours each week that make up your workweek. Legally, the definition of workweek is the time between specific hours each week when you are expected to be engaged in your principal work activity.

Meal and break times

You typically also have break or lunch periods. Any break of 20 minutes is usually paid, while any break of 30 minutes or more, such as a lunch break, is typically not required to be paid.

Sometimes the nature of your job naturally means you will have downtime. Determining if you should be paid for downtime depends on if you are considered “waiting to be engaged” or “engaged to wait.”

Being engaged to wait means your employer has hired you to do work when it is available, while understanding that it may not always be available. You are considered engaged to wait during that time.

However, if you are hired only to perform work when it is available and are not expected to work or even remain on the worksite when no work is available, you are likely considered waiting to be engaged. You are not required to be paid.

On-call situations

Whether you should be paid when you are on call usually depends on your physical location. If you must remain at your worksite while you are on call, you are working. If you leave your worksite and simply leave your phone on, you are likely not working.