DOL issues 3 new opinion letters

The Department of Labor (DOL) has just issued three new opinion letters on various topics that affect the enforcement of wage and hour rules and regulations. While the opinion letters do not have the force of law, they do provide guidance concerning compliance. The options letters addressed 3 different topics: 1) What constitutes compensable “work time”, when employees are required to travel on the job; 2) Whether medically mandated 15-minute rest breaks must be compensated pursuant to the FMLA; and 3) What constitutes “earnings” for purposes of potential wage garnishment actions.

In the first letter, the DOL examined when an employee must be compensated for travel time. Generally, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not provide compensation for time spent travelling to and from work.  However, when an employee travels away from his or her home, compensation may be required for non-exempt employees who work longer than the employee’s “normal” work day.

In the second, the DOL determined that 15-minute breaks necessitated by a medical condition are not compensable, reasoning that while they are allowed, they are for the benefit of the worker and an accommodation. Generally required 20-minute work breaks are different, and have been determined to be for the benefit of the company, and thus compensable.

The third letter addressed what items of pay may be considered as “earnings” for the purposes of garnishment under the CCPA.  The DOL explained that to determine whether a payment constitutes earnings, the central question is whether the amount was in exchange for the employee’s services.  This includes things such as commissions, bonusses (both discretionary and non-discretionary), profit sharing and workers’ compensation payments.

Although not law, these letters serve as guidance to employers on various wage and hour rules and regulations.

For more information or if you have any wage and hour questions, please contact the experienced Atlanta wage and hour lawyers at Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP for an immediate case evaluation.