Law Office of David Miklas, P.A.

Labor & Employment law - Employers only

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) recently issued three new opinion letters.

The opinion letters address compliance under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and other laws:

  • What counts as work time under the FLSA when employees travel for work
  • Whether 15-minute rest breaks required every hour by an employee’s serious health condition must be paid or may be uncompensated
  • Whether certain lump-sum payments from employers to employees are considered “earnings” for garnishment purposes under Title III of the Consumer Credit Protection Act

An opinion letter is an official document authored by WHD on how a particular law applies in specific circumstances presented by the person or entity requesting the letter. Opinion letters represent official statements of agency policy.

In the summer of 2017, our law firm newsletter announced that the DOL was resuming its longstanding practice of issuing opinion letters. The DOL had issued opinion letters for more than 70 years before ceasing the practice in 2010.

Regarding the opinion letter about travel time, the Opinion letter addresses a very specific fact pattern, but reminds employers that compensable work time generally does not include time spent commuting to or from work. Also, the FLSA regulations further clarify that “[n]ormal travel from home to work is not worktime” regardless of “whether [the employee] works at a fixed location or at different job sites.” Unlike ordinary commute time, however, “travel from job site to job site during the workday, must be counted as hours worked.”

Regarding the rest break opinion letter, that involved a situation where employees provided FMLA certifications from their health care providers stating that the employees require 15-minute breaks every hour due to their own continuing serious health conditions; and taking such breaks means that, in an eight hour shift, these employees will perform only 6 hours of work.  The opinion letter explained that rest breaks up to 20 minutes in length are ordinarily compensable because they primarily benefit the employer.  However, the DOL noted that the specific FMLA-protected breaks described in the opinion letter, differ significantly from ordinary rest breaks commonly provided to employees. Namely, the 15-minute breaks at issue here were required eight times per day and solely due to the needs of the employee’s serious health condition as required under the FMLA.  The DOL explained that because the FMLA-protected breaks described in the letter were given to accommodate the employee’s serious health condition, the breaks predominantly benefit the employee and were noncompensable.  The DOL reminded the employer that employees who take FMLA-protected breaks must receive as many compensable rest breaks as their coworkers receive.

Florida employers are reminded that the DOL opinion letters are limited to the specific facts presented, but still can provide clarity that helps increase compliance.

If you need any assistance in the area of minimum wage or overtime or classifying workers as exempt from the FLSA, please email the Law Office of David Miklas, P.A. or call us at 1-772-465-5111.

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Labor Department Issues New Wage and Hour Opinion Letters