Can You Get Paid to Sleep?

A truck driver yawns while driving.
By Christopher Coble, Esq. on August 19, 2019 12:00 PM

Sadly, if you're a long-haul truck driver, you can't get paid to sleep anymore. For over 50 years, if you were on the road for 24 continuous hours or more, any sleep time in your cab over eight hours would be paid. No longer.

Under a new rule from the Department of Labor, any time sleeping in a sleeping berth is "generally and presumptively non-compensable," as long as you have enough time in adequate facilities, you're relieved from all work duties, and the you're able to use that time for your own purposes. Sorry, good buddy, there's no more cheese for z's if you're having shutter trouble after a long day of dodgin' county mounties with bumper stickers on your donkey and every Kojack with a Kodak between you and the pickle park.

No Cash for Catnaps

If you're slightly confused about sleep time compensation, the Labor Department's Wage and Hour Division (WHD) issued an opinion letter regarding its interpretation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), hopefully clarifying things with this example:

A long-haul truck driver is on a 7-day trip. Work for the week included 55.84 hours of driving, inspecting, cleaning, fueling, and completing paperwork. Another 49.96 hours was spent in the truck's sleeper berth, doing no work. Daily time in the berth varied from zero hours to 12.08 hours. The employer asked if paying the employee $7.25/hr for 55.84 hours satisfied the FLSA minimum wage requirements. After discussing and applying regulations for waiting time, sleeping time, and travel time, the WHD opined that paying for 55.84 hours would satisfy the FLSA minimum wage requirements. Note that overtime pay is not an issue in this case, because over-the-road truck drivers are generally exempt from the overtime requirements under the FLSA's Motor Carrier Exemption.

See? Easy peasy. No pay for sleeping, and no overtime pay. Sounds like a great deal.

Dozing for Dollars

As it turns out, there are some scenarios under which you could get paid to sleep. That same opinion letter notes: "sleeping time may be considered compensable time if the employer permits the employee to sleep during an on-duty period when the employee is not busy." So, if you're on the clock, without anything to do, and your boss doesn't mind, feel free to close your eyes and count the dollars jumping from their pocket to yours until you doze off.

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