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Q&A: If we require employees to arrive ten minutes early to prepare for the start of their shift, do we have to pay them for this extra time?

Question:

If we require employees to arrive ten minutes early to prepare for the start of their shift, do we have to pay them for this extra time?

Answer from Kara, JD, SPHR:

Yes. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (and likely state law as well), you must pay employees for all hours worked. This includes the time they are required to be on your premises, even if they haven’t begun their “regular” duties. Preparing for work—if it must be done at work—will be considered part of the employee’s continuous workday.

You are certainly welcome to have an attendance and tardiness policy that requires employees to be at their desk or assigned location and ready to work exactly when their shift begins, and to discipline them if they are not ready. But if you require employees to arrive earlier to ensure this happens, you’ve effectively extended their shift by that amount of time and will need to compensate them for it.

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Kara practiced employment and bankruptcy law for five years before joining us and was a Human Resources Generalist at an architecture and engineering firm for several years prior to that. As an attorney, she worked on many wage and hour and discrimination claims in both state and federal court. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Oregon State University and earned her law degree from Lewis and Clark Law School.

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