The U.S. Department of Labor recently has clarified compensable work time under the Fair Labor Standards Act regarding meal breaks, straight time, and overtime. In an opinion letter dated May 15, 2008, the Department issued the following conclusions:
l If an employee fails to take a 30-minute unpaid meal break and the failure to take a meal break does not cause the employee to work more than 40 hours in the workweek, no additional compensation is due to the employee if the employee's total wages for the workweek divided by the compensable hours worked equal or exceed the applicable minimum wage.
l If an employee fails to take a 30-minute unpaid meal break and the employee does work more than 40 hours in the workweek, the 30-minute unpaid meal break must be counted for purposes of determining overtime compensation. An employee must be paid all straight-time wages due for all hours worked before an employee can be said to be paid statutory overtime compensation due.
l If an employee who is regularly scheduled to work 35 hours per week works before the employee's scheduled start time or after the employee's scheduled end time and the employee's total hours are less than 40 hours per workweek, the employee is not due additional straight time compensation if the employee's total wages for the workweek divided by the compensable hours worked equal or exceed the applicable minimum wage.
l If an employee receives certain types of premium pay that are not otherwise legally required, that pay need not be included in the employee's regular rate of pay for purposes of computing overtime compensation. Also, certain types of premium pay may be credited toward the employee's overtime compensation requirements.
l Rounding of time is allowed so long as the employer does not arbitrarily fail to count an employee's fixed or regular working time. Rounding to the nearest five minutes, one-tenth or one-quarter of an hour is acceptable if, in the aggregate, the employer compensates the employees properly for all the time they have worked.
However, this opinion letter only provides guidable interpretation about “work time” under the Fair Labor Standards Act. So when applied to state laws, it may result in a different analysis.