Not knowing the difference could result in a costly Department of Labor claim. Maybe more costly than a divorce.
If your employee is Engaged to Wait then that time is considered hours worked. Conversely, Waiting to be Engaged are off-the-clock hours, thus not hours worked or compensable under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
So what is the difference between the two? I am glad you asked.
Engaged to Wait is time spent primarily for the benefit of the employer, and how much restraint is placed on an employee who is waiting. Let’s look at a few examples to get a better picture.
- A receptionist who reads a book while waiting for the next call.
- A truck driver who waits for his truck to be loaded at a job site.
- A technician who is at a clients business waiting for them to arrive.
- An “on-call” hospital ER employee who is able to relax and do as they please at the hospital, but not allowed to leave, in the event of an emergency.
In these cases, waiting is a critical part of the job and the employee cannot use the waiting time effectively for their own purpose. Even though the employee may be able to leave the work site, they need to be ready when the work arrives. Certainly the employer has the right to have the employee perform others duties while they are waiting, but the employee is considered working in either case.
Waiting to be Engaged is time where the employee is completely relieved from duty, and they know the time they are required to leave the job and to return to work. Take the same truck driver in the above example. He arrives at 10am at a warehouse and is informed that it will take 6 hours to unload the truck. He has no other responsibilities other than driving, and is asked to return at 4pm. He is Waiting to be Engaged and is off-duty. Even though he does not necessarily have transportation to drive anywhere, he is completely and specifically relieved from all duty and free to use the time for his own purposes.
Now consider this. If that same truck driver returns at 4pm, and the truck is not completely unloaded yet, and he waits an additional hour, then he is now Engaged to Wait and must be compensated for that time.
As you can see the deciding factor for each situation depend upon the individual circumstances as well as the communication to the employee. If you have any question regarding your specific situation, consider utilizing our HR Support Center. Our certified HR professionals will provide you with answers to your complex questions.