Top 3 Hourly Pay Issues for Employers

By Andrew Chow, Esq. on July 16, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A company's nonexempt employees must be paid for their hours worked. But federal wage laws can be confusing, leaving employers uncertain about when hourly workers must be paid.

Compounding that uncertainty, there are a few paid-time issues that often trip up employers and can lead to potential legal disasters, Inside Counsel advises.

Here are the Top 3 hourly-pay issues for which corporate counsel need to pay close and careful attention:

1. Travel Time.

In general, employees who travel to different job sites or run work-related errands during a workday must be paid for travel time. This also generally includes commuting to out-of-town meetings and conferences, along with travel for work-related emergencies.

In some cases, an employee must also be paid for commuting to or from work. This occurs when the employer requires the worker to perform work-related duties while commuting, like picking up supplies on the way into the office. An employee's use of a company vehicle may also require compensation, if the vehicle is not of a type typically used for commuting.

2. Waiting Time.

Another common corporate hourly-pay issue: What happens when an employee doesn't have any assignments or tasks to perform? If the employee is required to remain at work, she must still be paid. However, if the worker is given the option to go home but chooses to stay at work anyway, an employer generally does not have to compensate the employee for waiting time, Inside Counsel advises.

3. Interns.

Interns can be unpaid, if their duties fall within the Labor Department's guidelines. But interns who in effect substitute for regular workers, or who have become integral to an employer's business operations, must generally be paid.

For questions about other hourly-pay scenarios, check out the Labor Department's online FLSA Hours Worked Advisor. You can also head to FindLaw's Corporate Counsel Center to stay on top of employment-law issues.

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