Make sure you know your rights and get paid for all hours worked
For many people, work isn't just a 9-to-5. Some jobs require travel and overnight stays outside the home, and in these situations, workers can end up victims of wage law violations.
A recent U.S. Department of Labor investigation in Columbus shed light on this very problem. The Wage and Hour Division found that an employer of home health workers failed to count sleep hours as hours worked when the employees had to stay overnight at clients' homes. The employer also failed to pay hours in excess of 8 in a workday and 80 in a pay period at the overtime rate, instead paying the "straight time" rate.
Unfortunately, cases like this are all too common. People who do difficult, essential work that requires overnight travel can be taken advantage of by employers that don't follow the law. That's why it's so important for employees to know their rights.
When does sleep time have to be paid?
According to the Wage and Hour Division, if your shift is less than 24 hours and includes a stretch of time where you are permitted to sleep or engage in other personal activities, then that time must be paid. For shifts greater than 24 hours, up to 8 hours of sleep time can be unpaid, but only if all of the following conditions are met:
- The employer furnishes "adequate sleeping facilities,"
- The employee can usually enjoy an uninterrupted night's sleep,
- At least 5 hours of sleep are taken, and
- There is an agreement between the employer and employee to exclude sleeping hours from time worked.
So, for instance, if the employee's sleep time is regularly interrupted (for instance, to assist a patient), then that sleeping time legally counts as hours worked. This is only fair: if you are "on-call" at a work location, you can't possibly enjoy a night's sleep the same way you would at home.
When does travel time have to be paid?
The general rule is that your regular home-to-work commute is your time and does not need to be paid, but travel that is part of your workday does need to be paid. For example, if you have to travel from job site to job site during your workday, then that travel time is work time and needs to be paid. In addition, if you are given a one-day "special assignment" that takes you further away from home than your usual home-to-work commute (for example, if you live and work in Cincinnati but are sent to an office in Columbus for a particular project), then any travel time in excess of your regular commute counts as time worked.
Travel time for an overnight trip may or may not be paid depending on the circumstances. If your travel time cuts across your normal working hours, it's paid, even if it's on a day you usually do not work. For example, if you typically work Monday through Friday, 8 to 5, and your job requires you to take a flight on a Sunday, then you should also be paid for any travel time on that Sunday between the hours of 8 and 5. Travel time is also paid under some other circumstances, such as if your employer requires you to drive (for instance, to transport other employees) or if you perform work for your employer during travel (for instance, taking a work call at the airport or working on a presentation on the plane).
If you're not paid for all hours worked, talk to an attorney
If your employer hasn't paid you for all your work time, then you may have a claim for unpaid wages, unpaid overtime, and potentially other related costs as well. However, you have to prove it, and that process can be challenging. Don't go it alone; talk to an experienced wage law attorney at Gibson Law, LLC today.