elaws - FLSA Hours Worked Advisor
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Principal Activities

The activities which you are employed to perform are your principal activities. These activities include any work of consequence performed for your employer--no matter where the work is performed. Your principal activities also include all activities which are an integral (or essential) part of your principal activities.

For example:

  • When operating a lathe an employee will frequently, at the beginning of his or her workday, oil, grease or clean his or her machine, or install a new cutting tool. Such activities are an essential or integral part of the principal activity. Time spent in these activities would probably be hours worked.
  • The time spent by a butcher sharpening knives and other tools is a part of the principal activity the butcher was hired to perform and would probably be hours worked.

Among the activities included as an essential part of a principal activity are those closely related activities that are necessary to perform the principal activity.

For example:

  • If an employee in a chemical plant cannot perform his or her principal activities without putting on certain protective clothes, changing clothes on the employer’s premises at the beginning and end of the workday would be a necessary part of the employee’s principal activities. The time spent in changing clothes would probably be hours worked.
  • Some employees, such as nurses and machine operators, who replace employees already on duty, are required to report to work before the beginning time of their shift. This time is frequently referred to as "reporting time." The extra reporting time is for the purpose of being made aware of what is going on or receiving instructions to continue work already in progress. This time is probably hours worked.
  • Note: there are special rules concerning early relief or reporting time for certain public sector employees. For more information about these special rules, please click on the underlined text.

If you have questions concerning the time you spend in preliminary or postliminary activities, please contact your local Wage and Hour District Office.