U.S. Department of Labor Issues New Wage and Hour Opinion Letter
WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Department of Labor announced today that it has issued a new opinion letter that addresses compliance issues related to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). An opinion letter is an official, written opinion by the Department's Wage and Hour Division (WHD) on how a particular law applies in specific circumstances presented by the individual person or entity that requested the letter.
The opinion letter issued today, FLSA2019-10, addresses the compensability of time spent in a truck's sleeper berth while otherwise relieved from duty. Significantly, this opinion letter provides new guidance. Under prior guidance, WHD interpreted the relevant regulations to mean that while sleeping time may be excluded from hours worked where "adequate facilities" were furnished, only up to 8 hours of sleeping time may be excluded in a trip 24 hours or longer, and no sleeping time may be excluded for trips under 24 hours. WHD has now concluded that this interpretation is unnecessarily burdensome for employers and instead adopts a straightforward reading of the plain language of the applicable regulation, under which the time drivers are relieved of all duties and permitted to sleep in a sleeper berth is presumptively non-working time that is not compensable. There may be circumstances, however, where a driver who retires to a sleeping berth is unable to use the time effectively for his or her own purposes. For example, a driver who is required to remain on call or do paperwork in the sleeping berth may be unable to effectively sleep or engage in personal activities; in such cases, the time is compensable hours worked.
The Department offers a search function allowing users to search existing opinion letters by keyword, year, topic, and a variety of other filters; and encourages the public to submit requests for opinion letters to WHD to obtain an opinion or to determine whether existing guidance already addresses their questions. The Division exercises its discretion in determining whether and how it will respond to each request.
This marks the 43rd opinion letter issued by WHD during this Administration.
WHD's mission is to promote and achieve compliance with labor standards to protect and enhance the welfare of the nation's workforce. WHD enforces Federal minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and child labor requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act. WHD also enforces the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, the Employee Polygraph Protection Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, wage garnishment provisions of the Consumer Credit Protection Act, and a number of employment standards and worker protections as provided in several immigration related statutes. Additionally, WHD administers and enforces the prevailing wage requirements of the Davis Bacon Act and the Service Contract Act and other statutes applicable to federal contracts for construction and for the provision of goods and services.