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Labor Law for All Employers

Howard L. Steele Jr.

Portal-to-Portal Act

The Portal-to-Portal Act of 1947 was enacted as an amendment to the FLSA and was designed to give employees relief and to clarify the law with respect to travel and other activities before and after the work day. The Act provides that minimum wages and overtime are not required for "traveling to and from the actual place of performance of the principal activity or activities which such employee is to perform" or for "activities which are preliminary to or postliminary to said principal activity or activities," unless there is a custom or contract to the contrary.

Examples of activities during regular work hours that generally are compensable include: coffee breaks; fire drills; meal periods if the employee is not relieved of all duties, if the employee is not free to leave his post, or if the time is less than 30 minutes; and, rest periods of 20 minutes for less. Examples of non-compensable time during regulate work hours include: absence for illness or vacation, unless paid on salary basis; meal period while on out-of-town business; training programs if attendance voluntary and not directly related to employee's present job; and, travel from home to work site and vice versa.

Additional substantive changes to the FLSA effected by the Act include: (1) establishing a statute of limitations of two years (three years for willful violations) for the filing of claims for unpaid wages, overtime compensation, or liquidated damages under any of the statutes to which the Act applies; and (2) affording the courts discretion to award a lesser amount of liquidated damages (or no liquidated damages at all) where the employer acted in good faith and had reasonable grounds for believing it had not violated the Act.

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