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Determining Number of Hours Worked by an Employee


The North Carolina Wage and Hour Act and Fair Labor Standards Act require employees to be paid at a rate not less than minimum wage for each hour worked. Employees are required to be paid overtime at a rate of not less than one and one half of the employee’s regular rate for each hour worked in excess of 40 in a workweek. Complications often arise when determining how many hours an employee actually worked in a workweek.

The North Carolina Wage and Hour Act does not include a precise definition for “hours worked.” When deciding whether certain time spent working should be compensable, North Carolina courts generally consider whether the time was primarily benefiting the employer. If the particular activity is integral to the employee’s job, it should be considered compensable time. However, if the employee is able to do their own personal activities, that time will not count for purposes of minimum wage or overtime.

For example, employees working in a chicken processing plant should be compensated for the time spent donning protective clothing because the activity is “integral and indispensable” for the principal work and is beneficial to the employer. If employees have to wait to don protective clothing, this time spent waiting is likely compensable so long as the employer is responsible for the delay. However, courts have found that employees donning and doffing protective clothing do not need to be paid when doing such activity before and after a meal break.

A common issue pertaining to determining hours worked and compensable time arises when employees commute to and from work. Generally, travel time before and after work is not compensable while travel time during work is compensable. However, if the transit itself is the principal activity, it should be compensated. In determining whether an employee should be compensated for travelling, a court may consider where the employees meet prior to the job site, whether the workers performed labor for the employer prior to going to the job site, and whether the employee had to pick up equipment or tools prior to going to a job site. Plumbers, electricians, or other tradesmen who have to meet at their company’s headquarters to pick up tools prior to going to a customers’ house should likely be compensated for the time spent driving from the employer’s headquarters to the first customer’s house.

Maginnis Law, PLLC is an unpaid wage and overtime law firm that represents employees who were not paid for the time spent working. Contact the Raleigh unpaid wage and overtime lawyers at Maginnis Law, PLLC at 919.526.0450 for a free consultation regarding your rights or submit a confidential new case inquiry here. Wage attorney Karl S. Gwaltney handles employment cases dealing with unpaid wages and overtime throughout Wake County, Cary, Apex, Durham, Vance County, and Henderson. The firm takes certain wage and hour/overtime cases throughout North Carolina, particularly when groups of workers are involved. Contact the firm to discuss your overtime claim today.