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Are Incidental Activities Compensable?

In addition to the principal duties that you hire an employee to perform — and for which that employee must be paid — are incidental activities. Some incidental activities are compensable, that is, you must pay the employee for performing them. Others, however, are not compensable, and you do not have to pay an employee for the time it takes to do them.

Use the chart below to help you determine if an employee's incidental activities are compensable or not.

Business Tools

If you need more specific information, check the detailed chart in our Business Tools section.

Compensable Incidental Activities Noncompensable Incidental Activities
Time spent doing things that are generally a part of principal duties, regardless of when they are performed.

Examples: Setting up a machine for a particular job, passing out work-related materials to employees.

Time spent by employees on changing clothes and washing up can be excluded from hours worked, even though the nature of the employee's principal duties makes these an integral part of those duties.
Time spent is for the employer's benefit.

Example: Rest periods of up to 20 minutes (rest period requirements differ according to state law).

Time spent during the workday on activities other than the principal duties if the employee is freed from duties for a specific amount of time that is sufficiently long enough for the employee to use at his or her discretion.

Example: Meal periods, long periods (hours) of down time between jobs.

Time spent that is controlled by the employer that the employee cannot use it for his or her own purposes.

Example: Remaining on-call or near the employer's premises or waiting for work to be assigned.

 
Time that the employer allows employees to spend working beyond the end of a shift or workday.

Example: Allowing employees to remain after their shift is over to correct errors or prepare records.

 
Time spent resulting from a request by the employer.

Example: Doing charitable work at the employer's request or participating in certain activities at the employer's request.

 
Time spent on activities performed before or after the workday (other than principal duties) if compensable under a contract or by the employer's custom or practice.

Example: Either under custom or contract, paying employees for the time it takes an employee to travel from home to the workplace (more likely to occur if the workplace is not where the business's offices or headquarters are and an employee has to be dispatched to a remote worksite).

Time spent on activities performed before or after the workday (other than principal duties) if deemed not compensable by a contract, absence of a contract, or custom or practice.

Example: Walking, riding, or otherwise traveling to and from work, waiting in line to punch in or out, waiting in line for a paycheck.

Also, the Supreme Court held that employees must be compensated for the time they spend walking to production areas after changing into protective safety equipment. However, the court ruled that the time workers spend waiting to don the first piece of gear is not compensable.