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Law Alert: U.S. DOL Opinion: Sleeper Berth Time Spent Off Duty Is Not Compensable

by Christopher J. Eckhart, A. Jack Finklea, James H. Hanson, E. Ashley Paynter, David D. Robinson

July 22, 2019

In an opinion letter issued today, the U.S. Department of Labor has taken the position that all sleeper berth time should be considered off duty for purposes of minimum wage compliance, provided the driver is not required to perform work while in the sleeper berth. 

The compensability of sleeper berth time has been the subject of court decisions in the last several years, and has turned on the interpretation of two distinct sets of DOL regulations: 

  1. When an employer permits a driver to sleep in “adequate facilities,” e.g., a sleeper berth, that time is non-working and therefore non-compensable. (29 CFR 785.41) 
  2. When an employee is permitted to sleep while on duty for 24 hours or more, only up to eight hours of uninterrupted time spent sleeping can be considered non-compensable. (29 CFR 785.21-22)

According to the DOL opinion letter, over-the-road drivers fit the plain language of the first regulation, rendering all time logged in sleeper berth status presumptively non-working, and therefore non-compensable, time. 

For more information on how the DOL’s opinion may be used and its potential effect on motor carrier operations, please contact Jim HansonJack FinkleaDavid RobinsonChris Eckhart, or Ashley Paynter

 

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