The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires employers to pay their employees for all hours they are “suffered or permitted to work.” For non-exempt employees, it can be tricky to determine actual work hours especially for waiting time, on-call time, and sleeping time.  

Waiting time 

According to the FLSA, if employees are engaged to wait, it is considered work time, therefore they must be paid. However, if employees are waiting to be engaged, then it is not considered work time and they do not have to be paid. 

An example of being engaged to wait is a firefighter scrolling through social media waiting for the next fire alarm to go off. In this scenario, the firefighter is being engaged to wait, his time is not his own. He must remain at the fire station and immediately be available when the alarm goes off, which is considered hours worked.  

On-call time  

If an employee is required to stay close to an employer’s premises in order to be on-call, then it is considered hours worked for non-exempt employees. However, if an employee is able to spend their on-call hours at their home or using that time to do what they desire, then the on-call time is not considered hours worked.  

Sleeping time  

If an employee is able to get five or more hours of uninterrupted sleep, then it is not considered worked hours.  

You can deduct a maximum of eight hours of sleeping time for the following:  

  • The employee is on duty for 24 hours or more 
  • Both the employer and the employee have an agreement that excludes sleep time  
  • The employer provides adequate sleeping facilities  

It is important for employers to know what is considered “suffered or permitted” work for their non-exempt employees. Understanding and communicating these distinctions will prevent any payroll issues and maintain employee satisfaction. If you have questions about the FLSA and accurately paying your employees, please reach out to us at