The Portal-to-Portal Act of 1947 amended the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to clarify the definition of a compensable workday. It clarified employers' responsibilities and added protections for employees to ensure they are paid for all time they spend working.
Although commuting time and preliminary work duties are not compensable under the Portal-to-Portal Act, employees are entitled to compensation for performing activities that are indispensable to job performance such as changing clothing after handling toxic materials. Because the provisions of this Act are extremely complicated, consult with an attorney to discuss your rights and obligations.Compensation Requirements under the Portal-to-Portal Act
The Portal-to-Portal Act requires that employers compensate workers for some activities that occur during the workday. These activities include coffee breaks, rest periods of 20 minutes or less, fire drills and meal times if the worker is not relieved of all job duties. If a lunch break is less than 30 minutes, the employer must provide compensation.Activities that Do Not Require Compensation
If an employee misses work due to illness or to take a vacation day, the employee is not entitled to compensation unless the employee is salaried. Meal periods while traveling for work are not compensated. If an employee attends a voluntary training program that is not directly related to the employee's current job, that employee does not need to receive compensation.
The Portal-to-Portal Act establishes a two-year statute of limitations for filing claims related to unpaid wages, overtime pay or liquidated damages. The guidelines consider principal activity or activities at the workplace.Technology Adds Further Complications
With the increased use of smartphones and mobile technology, the line between work and free time has become blurred. Smartphones, laptops, iPads and other technology allows users to receive e-mails, download documents and access the Internet. As a result, some employees feel obligated to stay connected to work on nights, weekends and during vacation times. Even composing a few quick e-mails on a smartphone can add up to a significant period of time spent working "off the clock." Many employees, recognizing the imposition this constant state of connection has created, are demanding compensation for the time they spend working while away from their workplace.
Although neither the Fair Labor Standards Act nor the Portal-to-Portal Act address the issue of constant connection to the workplace, it is likely that employers will see increased litigation in the future. To protect themselves from liability, employers should craft a clear policy regarding the after-hours use of smartphones and other technology. It is a wise idea for employers to conduct a regular audit of employees' actual job duties and their compensation to make sure they are classified correctly. Taking this precaution can save an employer from expensive legal battles.The Knowledgeable John L. Mays Can Help You Understand Your Rights
Because the issue of work time can be confusing, contact a Georgia employment attorney to help you assess your circumstances and develop a comprehensive policy to clarify your employees' work hours. The lawyer John L. Mays has a thorough understanding of the protections and limitations of the Portal-to-Portal Act. He can evaluate your current policies to ensure that you are in compliance with the law.