Legal Guidelines for workers who spend time waiting


In most cases, employees must be paid when they’re waiting for work to do during their shifts, according to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).


If they aren’t there can be serious consequences, as one California car wash operator learned.


Vahid Delrahim owned 12 car washes, and he regularly required employees to log out but remain at work when business was slow.


Delrahim also had employees do unpaid off-the-clock work at the beginning of each shift.


Both practices caused workers to regularly lose out on several hours of pay per day.


For these violations, Delrahim and his businesses must pay $3.8 million in back wages and damages to over 800 car wash employees. They also owe an additional $400,000 in civil monetary penalties.


‘Engaged to wait’ for work


Per the FLSA, employees are “engaged to wait” if they’re waiting for work while on duty since their time is still controlled by the employer. So even if they’re reading books, chatting with co-workers or playing cards, they must be paid for that time.


Companies do have the option to send workers home if business is slow.


However, depending on your industry and on your state or local laws, employees may still be owed pay for reporting to work.


Example: Hourly workers in Oregon must be paid at hold the usual rate for each scheduled hour not worked.


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