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July 13, 2010
Working Early or Late Can Be Compensatory Gray Areas

In a BLR webinar entitled "Off-the-Clock? How to Determine When Time Worked is Compensable Under Federal Law," Catherine Moreton Gray, Esq., an associate at Robinson and Cole LLP explained that, according to the Department of Labor (DOL), activities performed before or after work may or may not be considered hours worked, which is a relatively vague standard. This means companies should study certain activities carefully to confirm compliance.

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In regard to starting early or working late, areas that should be studied so as to arrive at a proper determination include:

  • Changing into uniforms, also known as donning and doffing
  • Arriving early for a shift or staying after the shift ends
  • Clocking out to avoid unauthorized overtime but then finishing up work "off-the-clock"

More concrete definitions are provided for meal and rest periods:

  • Federal law does not require employers to provide meal and rest periods
  • Any break of 20 minutes or less is work time
  • Meal breaks lasting longer than 20 minutes are not work time if the employee is relieved of all duties (even if the employee cannot leave the premises)

Catherine Moreton Gray, Esq. is an associate at Robinson and Cole LLP ( She has more than 20 years experience in human resources and employment law. Her practice is focused on advising employers on all aspects of the employment relationship, including representing employers in government audits, before administrative agencies and in federal and state courts.

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