Waiting Time (Waiting Time Pay)

Definition

The term waiting time refers to those occasions when an employer is experiencing a delay in getting work to an employee.  Under certain conditions, the Fair Labor Standards Act requires employers to pay non-exempt employees for waiting time.

Explanation

Employers are required to compensate employees for time worked.  This can occur both at the employee's work location as well as off-site.  The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires employers to compensate employees when they are engaging in work.

Employees can be given an assignment that requires them to wait for work.  Whether or not the employer owes compensation to the employee depends on the circumstances of the agreement.  Specifically, whether or not the employee was engaged to wait or was waiting to be engaged.

  • Engaged to Wait:  if an employee was engaged to wait, this is considered work time and the employee is owed compensation while waiting.  For example, a truck driver that pulls up to a loading dock might be waiting while the stock handlers load or unload the truck.  This waiting time is part of the truck driver's normal assignment.  Since they are engaged to wait, this is considered work time and the driver is owed compensation.
  • Waiting to be Engaged:  if an employee is waiting to be engaged, this is not considered work time and the employee is not owed compensation while waiting.  For example, a call center representative's shift starts at noon and runs through 9:00 p.m.  The representative reports to work at 11:30 a.m., 30 minutes before their shift starts.  Since the employee is waiting to be engaged, this is not considered work time and they are not owed compensation.

Companies are permitted to provide compensation beyond that required by law.  If the legality of a company's pay policy is called into question, the best course of action is to consult with an experienced labor attorney.

Related Terms

on-call time, decrease in pay, travel time, pay in lieu of notice, sleep time, piece rate pay system, personal time, fatigue and delay, sick pay