FLSA Guidance on Compensable Time

The Department of Labor (DOL) has released additional guidance on determining compensable time under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The opinion letters assist employers to evaluate whether lump sum employee payments are considered ‘earnings’ for garnishment purposes. The guidance also reviews what constitutes compensable travel time and rest breaks.

Stinson Leonard Street outlines the DOL’s guidance as follows:

Travel Time

[A]n employer must first determine an employee’s “normal work hours” to determine whether travel falls within those hours. One method is to review the employee’s time records during the past month to see if they reveal typical work hours. If not, the employer may use the average start and end times. If an employee truly has no normal work hours, the employer and employee may negotiate and agree to a reasonable amount of time for which travel away from the employee’s home community is compensable.

Rest Breaks

Employee rest breaks up to 20 minutes generally are compensable because the DOL considers them to be primarily for the benefit of the employer. In Opinion Letter FLSA 2018-19, the DOL addresses the situation where an employee presents an FMLA certification from a health care provider stating that due to a serious health condition, the employee requires a 15-minute break every hour.


The DOL also issued a Non-Administrator letter clarifying whether certain lump-sum payments may be considered “earnings” under the Consumer Credit Protection Act. The characterization as “earnings” is important because the amount of an employee’s pay which may be subject to wage garnishment is dependent upon how much of that pay is considered “earnings.” Payments that are “earnings” are protected from garnishment to a certain extent, whereas payments that are not “earnings” are not.

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Break Time

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