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Compensable Time Under Both Federal and State Law

By Lane V. Erickson, Attorney


Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), an employer must pay an employee for all hours that are legitimately worked. However, sometimes there is a dispute about whether certain activities are work and therefore whether the time spent doing these activities is compensable time. This is an area where the FLSA leaves the determination to the states. In Idaho, based upon its wage and hour statutes, hours worked, and thus compensable time, does not include the following:

  • time spent traveling to or from the workplace;
  • preparation for productive work;
  • time used after a regular shift to prepare for leaving work;
  • time used to check in prior to shift start;
  • time used for leaving and returning from lunch;
  • time used in a changing room or changing clothing and taking showers;
  • time used collecting or securing work tools and equipment;
  • time used receiving instructions prior to shift start;
  • time spent on the employer’s premises following the end of a shift;
  • time used to return work tools and equipment, receiving or handing out orders, and creating reports after shift end;
  • time used while waiting in line to receive wage pay or salaries; and
  • time used during incidental activities prior to or after work, which can include activities that are excluded from compensable work time by industry practice, custom or agreement.  (Idaho Code § 44-1202)

It is important to note that employers and employees are free to enter into written contracts that define hours worked to include periods of time not covered by Idaho law. (Idaho Code § 44-1203)  When this happens, the contract will control. However, a contract cannot displace or do away with rights provided to an employee by the FLSA or by applicable Idaho law. Thus, a contract can provide more rights to the employee but it cannot take away the rights guaranteed to the employee by federal or state law.


Idaho does not have any laws requiring an employer to provide a meal period or breaks to employees, thus the federal rules and laws apply. The federal laws do not require an employer to provide either a meal (lunch) period or breaks. However, if an employer chooses to do so, breaks, usually of the type lasting less than 20 minutes, must be paid. Meal or lunch periods (usually 30 minutes or more) do not need to be paid, so long as the employee is free to do as they wish during the meal or lunch period. If the employer directs the employees’ actions then the employee may be able to claim the time as work or compensable time.

If you have questions about whether the time an employee has worked is compensable, we can help. Call us toll free at 877-232-6101 or 208-232-6101 for a consultation with Lane Erickson and the Racine Olson team of Employment Law attorneys in Idaho. You can also email Lane Erickson directly at We will answer your Idaho Employment Law questions and will help you solve your Idaho Employment Law problems.

This website includes general information about legal issues and developments in the law. Such materials are for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. These informational materials are not intended, and must not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. You need to contact a lawyer for advice on specific legal issues.

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