DOL Reinterprets Compensability of Sleep Time for Truck Drivers
By Anne Baggott and Brandi Spates
August 19, 2019
The Wage and Hour Division (WHD) of the U.S. Department of Labor recently issued an Opinion Letter that withdrew several previous opinion letters regarding transportation employers’ responsibilities under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Under the new interpretation, if a truck driver or a driver’s assistant is completely relieved of all duties and responsibilities and is provided with adequate sleeping facilities, which includes a truck’s sleeping berth, the individual is not “working while riding” and therefore is not entitled to compensation.
Under guidance in place since 1964, WHD interpreted 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 could be excluded for trips under 24 hours. In the new Opinion Letter, WHD acknowledged that prior interpretation was unnecessarily burdensome for employers and instead adopts a straightforward reading of the plain language of the applicable regulation, which supports the presumption that non-working time is not compensable. This presumption holds true regardless of whether the truck is moving or stationary.
However, transportation employers should be wary that issues involving waiting, sleeping, and travel time under the FLSA are highly fact-specific. WHD acknowledged there may be some cases where a driver or assistant who retires to a sleeper berth is unable to use the time effectively for his own purposes. For example, a driver or assistant who is required to review work-related materials, remain on call or complete necessary paperwork in the sleeper berth may be unable to engage in personal activities or sleep effectively; in such cases, the time would be compensable.
Contact Anne Baggott at (816) 931-2700 for more information.