Must we pay for time spent preparing to work? — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily

Must we pay for time spent preparing to work?

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in Compensation and Benefits,Human Resources

Q. We have an employee who regularly comes into work a half-hour or more before her scheduled shift in order to get her work station ready and otherwise get herself set up for the day. This preparation time is important to the employee because she does not believe that she can meet the production requirements of her job without it. The employee has been told that she cannot start performing her actual job tasks until the start of her scheduled shift. Our new HR manager has advised that we must pay the employee for the time that she spends preparing for her shift, even though she had no approval to work during that time. Is that right?

A. Your new HR manager is correct. The state and federal Fair Labor Standards Acts require you to pay your employees for all time spent working, and these statutes broadly define what constitutes compensable work.

It appears from your question that the preparation that the employee is performing is related to, and actually assists in, the furtherance of the company’s business. If so, the time is compensable and should be paid, even if it results in overtime to the employee.


Susan K. Fitzke and Sarah J.Gorajski are shareholders, advising clients out of Littler Mendelson’s Minneapolis office. Con­­tact them at (612) 630-1000 or send email to Susan at sfitzke@littler.com and Sarah at sgorajski@littler.com.

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