There are federal and state laws that protect employees, ensuring you receive payment for the time you work. The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the North Carolina Wage and Hour Act (WHA) define the difference between paid and unpaid work time. Under both laws, your employer must pay you for any time considered “work.” Asking you to work off the clock — hours you are not paid for — is illegal.

Phil Gibbons at Gibbons Leis, PLLC helps employees understand and defend their right to get the pay they earn. Call us today at 704-612-0038 if you have questions about North Carolina employment law, or if you believe your job may not be paying you for all the hours you work.

What Is the Difference in Paid and Unpaid Work Time?

Any time you perform work for your employer, engaging in physical or mental exertion, you should receive compensation for the time you worked. The only time during the work day when you may not receive compensation for your time is during a break or meal period that lasts more than 20 minutes.  

For example, your employer may offer you a lunch break after several hours of work. In most cases, this will not be a paid break if it exceeds 20 minutes. You would only receive pay for this time if you performed work while eating on your meal break. If your supervisor asks you to come to a lunch meeting to discuss a new project, you should receive payment for this.

What About Holidays, Vacation Time, Sick Days, and Other Leave?

Many people assume there is a law requiring “time-and-a-half” or other special pay when they work on holidays. However, no federal or state law in North Carolina requires extra pay for those who work on holidays. In fact, employers are free to determine which holidays they observe and which they do not.

The FLSA also does not require employers to give workers paid time off. This includes both vacations and sick leave. However, many companies choose to allow hourly employees to request unpaid time off, or even offer paid time off to some employees. This is an added wage benefit.

Under North Carolina law, any leave policy offered that includes pay must be clearly outlined in writing in the employee handbook or other document. This must include how employees can earn paid time off, and when they can use it. Often, businesses will close on holidays and employees can use their paid time off to still receive wages for that day.

When it comes to calculating overtime, though, these paid time off hours do not count toward overtime. For example, if you work 35 hours during a week and take 8 hours of paid time off for a holiday, you will not receive overtime. Only hours you actually work at your job count toward overtime.

When Do I Get Paid for On-Call Time in North Carolina?

We hear from employees frequently about getting paid for on-call time. Unfortunately, there is not a one-size-fits-all answer for this. If you must stay on property or very close to work while on-call and this prevents you from using this time to run your own errands or do other things at home, your employer may owe you for these hours. For example, if you manage an apartment complex and must stay on property while on-call, this severely limits your ability to use your time productively outside of work.

Waiting time is similar. If you must wait at your workplace, they owe you for these hours. In fact, according to the U.S. Supreme Court, any time a worker engages in physical or mental work required by their employer, she must receive wages for her work. This may also come into consideration when discussing pay for preliminary and postliminary activities. We can help you understand how this case law might apply in your specific situation.

Do I Get Paid for Sleep Time on the Job?

If your workplace requires you work for extended hours and they provide sleeping quarters, you will likely receive pay for your full shift. This includes the time you sleep. This is common for doctors, firefighters, and others whose shifts last up to 24 hours.

There are some situations that are different from the norm, however. If you work from home or live at your employer’s campus or home for 24 hours or more at a time, you may only receive pay for your time spent working and have eight hours or more of unpaid sleep time during your shift. Live-in nannies, group home administrators, and dormitory resident assistants usually have this type of schedule. We can help you determine how many hours of pay you deserve based on your individual situation.

Does North Carolina Require Pay for Show-Up Time with No Hours Worked?

More and more, employers are asking workers to come to work and then sending them home when there is not enough work to do. This is especially common in the restaurant and retail industries.

Some cities and states recently passed laws requiring employers to pay workers for a minimum number of hours when this occurs, even if they do not have work for these employees.

However, there is no federal or state law in North Carolina that requires your employer pay you anything if you do not work after reporting to your job.

Should My Employer Pay Me for Travel Time in North Carolina?

For most people, the time it takes to commute to work and home from work is not “work,” and is therefore not compensable.

There are exceptions to this, however. If your employer asks you to make stops on the drive, perform some job-related tasks on the train, or do other work during your commute, they must compensate you for this time. Another exception is when you work from a different location for a short period of time or they send you to another city for a work-related task.

We can help you understand your rights and recover any lost wages based on the facts of your case.

Is Training Paid or Unpaid Work?

There are very specific laws about paying for an employee’s training sessions. Your employer must compensate you for hours spent in training unless:  

  • The training occurs outside of your regular hours;
  • The training is not mandatory;
  • The skills taught do not directly relate to your job duties; and
  • You do not produce any work during the session

Only rarely will a training session meet all four of these requirements. It is important to note, though, that you may not receive your full pay for the time spent in training. Your employer can pay you with a training wage instead, and this may be as low as minimum wage.

Phil Gibbons, Charlotte, NC Employee Rights Lawyer, Can Help You Recover Owed Wages

Phil Gibbons at Gibbons Leis, PLLC can help you better understand your rights as an employee, and recover any unpaid wages. We are not afraid to take on any employer in North Carolina. We have the resources to win your case against corporations of any size. Call us today at 704-612-0038 to get started.