She was ordered to go, so she has to be paid under FLSA regulations

by on April 2, 2009 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Info Center

If you order employees to undergo treatment, be prepared to pay them for time spent there, even if it’s outside normal work hours.

A federal court in Illinois recently issued that interpretation of Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) regulations.

The employee in the case, an emergency dispatcher, had a series of dust-ups with colleagues that culminated in her walking out partway through a shift. The employer said if she wanted to keep her job she had to see its consulting psychotherapist weekly for six months.

Overtime claimed
The employer didn’t pay for the time the employee spent traveling to and attending the sessions, which came to three hours each. Later, she sued under FLSA regulations to recover unpaid overtime.

The employer argued that the sessions were for the employee’s benefit, since by going she could keep her job. That made the time unpaid, the employer said.

Whose benefit?
The court disagreed. It said that under FLSA regulations, workers must be paid when their activity is “necessarily and primarily” for the employer’s benefit. This was the case here. The employer was short-staffed in dispatch and wanted to hang on to a trained employee if possible. And the employer told her to see its therapist rather than her own, and paid 90% of the cost.

Rule of thumb: If the company gets something out of what the employee is doing, it’s probably paid time.

Cite: Sehie v. City of Aurora, No. 04-2308, 7th Cir., 12/27/05

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