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Understanding the Fair Labor Standards Act

A recent newsletter from the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers addressed the topic of obligations for remote employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), based on U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Field Assistance Bulletin No. 2023-1 (FAB) which covers telework under FLSA.

Under the FLSA guidelines: The location of an employee, whether on the employer's premises, job sites, or working remotely, is irrelevant for breaks and meal periods.

  • Breaks of 20 minutes or less must be considered as paid time according to 29 CFR §785.18.

  • A bona fide meal break, or any break lasting at least 30 minutes, is not considered as worktime (29 CFR §785.18) if the employee is entirely relieved from duty. Although the employer need not set the timing for meal breaks, it's crucial to convey to the employee that no work is to be done during this time.

For instance: Example 1: Employee A works remotely and takes a lunch break from 12:30–1 p.m. During the break, work-related phone calls interrupt him, each lasting a few minutes. As per FLSA, because the meal break was interrupted by work calls, the employee must be compensated for this time as he wasn't fully relieved of duties. Example 2: Employee B works from home and sets her own schedule. She starts at 7 a.m., takes a 1-hour break from 8–9 a.m. to attend to her children, and resumes at 9 a.m. Employee B isn't required to be paid for the period from 8–9 a.m. as she's entirely relieved from work duties.

Example 3: Employee C teleworks and arranges with the employer to work from 9 a.m.–4 p.m., take a break from 4–7 p.m., and then work from 7–8 p.m. Employee C need not be paid for the 3 hours he doesn't work, in accordance with FLSA requirements.

By adhering to the FLSA guidelines and understanding the implications for remote employees, businesses can ensure compliance and equitable treatment of their workforce.

Article Credit: The American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers


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