How Many Hours is a Salaried Employee Required to Work

“How many hours is a salaried employee required to work” is one of the most common questions an employee who has been offered their first salaried position asks.

Managers are required to design jobs that fit within the scope of a normal workday. We know from innumerous studies that having people work longer hours doesn’t make them any more productive. It has the opposite impact -- longer hours opens the door for quality issues, safety liabilities, fatigue, and morale among teammates and employees.

When it comes to determining how many hours over the standard work week, if any, a salaried person should have to work, the amount of time required to satisfactorily complete the job should be a primary determining factor. Often, this does not exceed a 45 or 50-hour work week. If a job requires 55 or 60 (or more) hours to perform, many would consider it a poorly-designed job.

Salaried Employee Working Hours

“Work time” constitutes any and all time an employee spends performing duties and activities related to completion of the job. This encompasses “on the clock” time that comes as part of an employee’s normal work day, as well as any additional “off the clock” time that an employee spends performing relevant job-related duties that benefit an employer in any way.

The FLSA, or the Fair Labor Standards Act, defines overtime as “time actually worked beyond a prescribed threshold.” The FLSA also defines a “work period” as the “work week,” or seven consecutive days, and their normal overtime threshold is the standard 40 hours per week.

Some jobs are subject to different FLSA overtime thresholds.

Employers are required to pay their employees on any legal basis in which it has the right to pay its employees, and the pay is not to fall below the standards set by the FLSA in any way.

Some workers, however, may arrive to their jobs early, and can start work prior to their official starting time of their scheduled shifts. This time counts as work time in the eyes of the law, and must be calculated and included in any and all FLSA computations related to pay.

This is, of course, provided that the employer knows, or reasonably should have known that an employee was set to begin work early. To that extent, the employee technically spent pre-shift time performing work-related duties and activities.

Alternative Work Periods

Employees also have an option to stay on the job after their scheduled shifts have ended. This, just like pre-shift time, must be calculated and included in pay computations. Any time an employee spends performing work-related duties, such as cleaning equipment or closing a shop in preparation for the next day’s work, is counted as work time, and may also be classified as post-shift time. That may also include any activities an employee performs on the way home that benefit the employer in any way.

Training periods are also considered work time. Any and all training time is legally considered work time should it occur during a business’s normal hours of operation, especially if the training is required by the employer as a condition of employment.

Training time doesn’t have to be counted as work time in all situations. It only does if that time meets the following conditions: (1) happens outside of an employee's usual work schedule, (2) is really voluntary (with neither indirect nor direct pressure on the employee to attend, and with no "come back" if the employee decides not to attend), (3) not directly related to the employee's present job.

The above conditions denote situations where an employee’s training was designed to teach and better qualify employees to gain new employment, and not to sharpen the skills of employees already on the job. A fourth condition exists, where the employee performs no other work during their training period.

Grey areas exist, of course. The FLSA typically requires any and all travel time to be considered work time. As a rule of thumb, “home to work” and “work to home” time (such as travelling) is not work time. This is usually true even when the commute to work is longer than an average commute, or is something of a burden to employees. Consider some businesses in Texas, for example, that all-but require their employees to arrive to work using the DART system.

Travel time is also not considered work time when employees are required to go to a different work site than what they normally use, or when an employee utilizes their company car rights to make trips. This is usually paid, when it is paid, at the discretion of the employer.

Meal periods don’t have to be counted as work time if the meal period is at least a half hour in duration. This is also true if and when an employee is relieved from any requirements of duty during their meal periods. Any employee who works through their lunch is working, and their time has to be counted as work time. Any employees who eat at their desks is legally and technically working through their lunch. In the eyes of the law, a true meal period requires the employee to disconnect from work-related duties entirely.

This also includes times where an employee is “on-call,” or where they are required to remain available during their meal periods, but are otherwise relieved of any and all active job requirements. This could encompass situations where an employee is allowed to take a lunch period, but may also be required to keep a work phone or pager on them in case they have to return to work immediately.

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