Calculating Hours Worked Under Massachusetts Law

What type of work counts as “hours worked” for purposes of determining employee compensation?

Determining what time must be paid for employees in Fall River, New Bedford, pittsfield, north adams, New Bedford, lowell, and the cape.  

The Fair Labor Standards Act and the Massachusetts Wage Act both require employers to pay their employees for all hours worked. Employees that are entitled to overtime must be paid for all hours worked and time-and-a-half for all hours worked over forty in a workweek. Calculating ‘hours worked’ for these purposes is not easy.

Generally, hours worked means the amount of time that an employer allows or permits an employee to perform services on its behalf. Work not requested but allowed or permitted to be performed is work that must be paid by the employer.

The fact that the work may have been unauthorized is immaterial. In other words, an employer can’t refuse to pay an employee for time worked by claiming that it did not authorize the work. If the employer benefitted, it must pay, regardless of whether the work was authorized.     

To be compensable, the employer must have actual or constructive knowledge that the work was performed. Employers are required to pay employees for all hours worked for which it had actual or constructive knowledge. In this context, constructive knowledge means work that the employer knew or should have known was being performed. This knowledge inquiry is to be made in view of an employer’s duty to inquire into the conditions prevailing in its business. As such, hours worked may be compensable even if it was performed outside the employer’s presence, or not at its direction, so long as the employer knew, or should have known, it was being performed.  

Work performed before or after your scheduled is the most common type of off-the-clock work.  If your employer knows, or should have known, that you show up early and perform work prior to punching in, you should be paid for that time.  If your employer knows or should have known that you catch up on emails at home after punching out, you should be paid for that time. 

Waiting time may be hours worked if the facts suggest the employee was engaged to wait, but not if he was waiting to be engaged. For example, an administrative assistant who starts work at 8:00 am, but does not receive an assignment until 9:00 am, must be paid for that hour of inactivity because during that time she was engaged to wait.

On-call time, in some circumstances, is working time if the employer is significantly restricted during the time she is on call. For example, an employee who must remain on the employer’s premises while on-call is working while on call, even if he or she is not performing any work. To the contrary, an employee who is free to do as she pleases while on call, but must carry around a phone at which she can be reached, is not working while on call and only must be paid for the time she actually works.  

Short rest periods, usually 20 minutes or less, are customarily paid as working time and count as hours worked. Longer rest and meal periods, usually 30 minutes or more, are considered working time if the employee actually works during that time. Employers who implement policies that automatically deduct 30 minutes from an employee’s working time, under the assumption that the employee actually took the 30-minute break, violate the law if that employee actually worked through some or all of that break.  Employees who are not completely relieved during these periods must be paid for these breaks.

Employees may be entitled to time spent at work sleeping, depending on the length of their shift. Generally, an employee who is required to be on duty for less than 24 hours is working even is he/she is permitted to sleep or engage in personal activities while at work.  Employees who are at work for longer than 24-hour shifts may agree with their employer to exclude a certain amount of hours from hours worked in which they may sleep or engage in personal activities.

Attendance at lectures, meetings, and trainings is not considered hours worked if it is outside normal work hours, is voluntary, is not job related, and is not attended concurrent with regular work.

Travel time is complicated. Generally, time spent commuting from your home to your regular office and back is ordinary commuting time and not working time. On the other hand, time spent travelling that is beyond your normal commute is, generally, considered working time and must be counted as hours worked.

Are you a resident of Pittsfield, Springfield, Worcester, Lowell, Fall River, New Bedford or the Cape?  Do you think you are performing work-related activities without compensation?  Contact Steffans Legal today for a free consultation.