Unpaid Wages

Jan 16

Performing any type of work at any time even outside the office, but so long as it is asked by the employer and is, therefore, for the employer’s benefit, should merit compensation , according to the stipulations of the Portal-to-Portal Act. This decree was passed in 1947 as an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938. The FLSA, also called the Wages and Hours Bill, is a federal mandate that sets rules for the national minimum wage, the daily and weekly number of working hours and the legal pay for overtime work; it also strictly prohibits the hiring of minors or those under the age of 18 for hard labor and the requiring of those below the age of 16 to work during school hours.

Though the FLSA was intended to make sure that employees are paid what is due them and that no one is required or made to work longer than they should, it was never meant to put employers in the losing end. Thus, despite benefiting about 700,000 workers when it was passed into law, the US Congress saw the need to amend it to make clear its extents and limits.

Amendments centered on clearly defining which activities before, during and after work shifts are compensable and not compensable due to certain works wherein employees need to perform activities (related to work) before actually engaging in their principal activities.

The specific clarifications and amendments on the contents of the FLSA that were made through the Portal-to-Portal Act, include:

a. Activities that necessitate mandatory compensation:

  • Duties that are part of one’s regular work
  • Activities that are essential and, thus, indispensable parts of one’s regular duties

b. Some activities that are generally considered compensable (compensation to the following activities depends on one’s agreement with his/her employer):

  • Principal work or activities that are directly related to principal work but which are performed at home;
  • Putting on the required gears necessitated by the job
  • “Suffered or permitted” work which is performed before or after a work shift and which the employer knows (or should know) as being performed
  • Disaster drills and fire drills
  • Travel time spent during the work shift but which is required to be able to perform a job which
  • Periods of inactivity occurring during shift
  • Time spent waiting for work instructions and the distribution of required working gears
  • Meal periods, but only when one has been required to work while eating within the worksite or at the desk
  • “On-call” time wherein one is required to stay at or near the workplace

c. Activities that are generally not considered to be compensable:

  • Travel time to or from the place of work
  • Time spent in line to punch a time clock
  • Extra/waiting time before the actual start of shift
  • Meal periods, during which regular work is not performed
  • “On-call” time, but when responding only to a telephone call or an electronic message

According to the website of Cary Kane, despite the mandates and the strict enforcement of laws governing labor and employment, hundreds of lawsuits still get filed in courts all across the US. Employment laws, however, are complex, and the statutory limit set by the government in filing a lawsuit based on unpaid wages can only be a source of added pressure.

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