One of the more difficult questions to answer is when an employee need to be paid. As we’ve discussed before, the answer to that question is deceptively simple: When the employee is working for the employer, the employee needs to be paid for that time. And, when the employee is not exempt from the FLSA’s overtime requirements, the employee is due time-and-a-half for hours worked in excess of 40 in a workweek. But what constitutes “working?” whether an “off-duty” activity is compensable is often dependent upon whether it benefits the employer. If the activity is for the employer’s benefit, the employee’s time to do the activity is usually considered compensable. A recent Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals decision considered just this question in the context of an employee’s participation in employer-mandated counseling sessions.
Kari Sehie, an emergency dispatcher for the City of Aurora, Illinois, had fielded 911 calls for over six years when she suddenly walked off the job on December 14th, 2000. Earlier that day, Sehie had been ordered to work a double shift. A half-hour into her second shift, Sehie became angry and left. After leaving work, she spoke to her therapist and took medication to manage her stress. When Sehie reported to work the next day, she claimed her outburst and resulting absence was a work-related injury. the City required Sehie to submit to a fitness for duty evaluation. The evaluation was conducted by Dr. Steven Stanard, who declared Sehie was fit for duty, but recommended Sehie attend weekly psychotherapy for six months.
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