29 CFR § 790.7 - “Preliminary” and “postliminary” activities.
(a) Since section 4 of the Portal Act applies only to situations where employees engage in “preliminary” or “postliminary” activities outside the workday proper, it is necessary to consider what activities fall within this description. The fact that an employee devotes some of his time to an activity of this type is, however, not a sufficient reason for disregarding the time devoted to such activity in computing hours worked. If such time would otherwise be counted as time worked under the Fair Labor Standards Act, section 4 may not change the situation. Whether such time must be counted or may be disregarded, and whether the relief from liability or punishment afforded by section 4 of the Portal Act is available to the employer in such a situation will depend on the compensability of the activity under contract, custom, or practice within the meaning of that section. 40 On the other hand, the criteria described in the Portal Act have no bearing on the compensability or the status as worktime under the Fair Labor Standards Act of activities that are not “preliminary” or “postliminary” activities outside the workday. 41 And even where there is a contract, custom, or practice to pay for time spent in such a “preliminary” or “postliminary” activity, section 4(d) of the Portal Act does not make such time hours worked under the Fair Labor Standards Act, if it would not be so counted under the latter Act alone. 42
40 See Conference Report. pp. 10, 12, 13; statements of Senator Donnell, 93 Cong. Rec. 2178–2179, 2181, 2182; statements of Senator Cooper, 93 Cong. Rec. 2297, 2298. See also §§ 790.4 and 790.5.
41 See Conference Report, p. 12; Senate Report, pp. 47, 48; statement of Senator Wiley, explaining the conference agreement to the Senate, 93 Cong. Rec. 4269; statement of Representative Gwynne, explaining the conference agreement to the House of Representatives, 93 Cong. Rec. 4388. See also § 790.6.
42 See § 790.5(a).
(b) The words “preliminary activity” mean an activity engaged in by an employee before the commencement of his “principal” activity or activities, and the words “postliminary activity” means an activity engaged in by an employee after the completion of his “principal” activity or activities. No categorical list of “preliminary” and “postliminary” activities except those named in the Act can be made, since activities which under one set of circumstances may be “preliminary” or “postliminary” activities, may under other conditions be “principal” activities. The following “preliminary” or “postliminary” activities are expressly mentioned in the Act: “Walking, riding, or traveling to or from the actual place of performance of the principal activity or activities which (the) employee is employed to perform.” 43
43 Portal Act, subsections 4(a), 4(d). See also Conference Report, p. 13; statement of Senator Donnell, 93 Cong. Rec. 2181, 2362.
(c) The statutory language and the legislative history indicate that the “walking, riding or traveling” to which section 4(a) refers is that which occurs, whether on or off the employer's premises, in the course of an employee's ordinary daily trips between his home or lodging and the actual place where he does what he is employed to do. It does not, however, include travel from the place of performance of one principal activity to the place of performance of another, nor does it include travel during the employee's regular working hours. 44 For example, travel by a repairman from one place where he performs repair work to another such place, or travel by a messenger delivering messages, is not the kind of “walking, riding or traveling” described in section 4(a). Also, where an employee travels outside his regular working hours at the direction and on the business of his employer, the travel would not ordinarily be “walking, riding, or traveling” of the type referred to in section 4(a). One example would be a traveling employee whose duties require him to travel from town to town outside his regular working hours; another would be an employee who has gone home after completing his day's work but is subsequently called out at night to travel a substantial distance and perform an emergency job for one of his employer's customers. 45 In situations such as these, where an employee's travel is not of the kind to which section 4(a) of the Portal Act refers, the question whether the travel time is to be counted as worktime under the Fair Labor Standards Act will continue to be determined by principles established under this Act, without reference to the Portal Act. 46
44 These conclusions are supported by the limitation, “to and from the actual place of performance of the principal activity or activities which (the) employee is employed to perform,” which follows the term “walking, riding or traveling” in section 4(a), and by the additional limitation applicable to all “preliminary” and “postliminary” activities to the effect that the Act may affect them only if they occur “prior to” or “subsequent to” the workday. See, in this connection the statements of Senator Donnell, 93 Conf. Rec. 2121, 2181, 2182, 2363; statement of Senator Cooper, 93 Cong. Rec. 2297. See also Senate Report, pp. 47, 48.
45 The report of the Senate Judiciary Committee (p. 48) emphasized that this section of the Act “does not attempt to cover by specific language that many thousands of situations that do not readily fall within the pattern of the ordinary workday.”
46 These principles are discussed in part 785 of this chapter.
(d) An employee who walks, rides or otherwide travels while performing active duties is not engaged in the activities described in section 4(a). An illustration of such travel would be the carrying by a logger of a portable power saw or other heavy equipment (as distinguished from ordinary hand tools) on his trip into the woods to the cutting area. In such a situation, the walking, riding, or traveling is not segreable from the simultaneous performance of his assigned work (the carrying of the equipment, etc.) and it does not constitute travel “to and from the actual place of performance” of the principal activities he is employed to perform. 47
47 Senator Cooper, after explaining that the “principal” activities referred to include activities which are an integral part of a “principal” activity (Senate Report, pp. 47, 48), that is, those which “are indispensable to the performance of the productive work,” summarized this provision as it appeared in the Senate Bill by stating: “We have clearly eliminated from compensation walking, traveling, riding, and other activities which are not an integral part of the employment for which the worker is employer.” 93 Cong. Rec. 2299.
(e) The report of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary (p. 47) describes the travel affected by the statute as “Walking, riding, or traveling to and from the actual place of performance of the principal activity or activities within the employer's plant, mine, building, or other place of employment, irrespective of whether such walking, riding, or traveling occur on or off the premises of the employer or before or after the employee has checked in or out.” The phrase, actual place of performance,” as used in section 4(a), thus emphasizes that the ordinary travel at the beginning and end of the workday to which this section relates includes the employee's travel on the employer's premises until he reaches his workbench or other place where he commences the performance of the principal activity or activities, and the return travel from that place at the end of the workday. However where an employee performs his principal activity at various places (common examples would be a telephone lineman, a “trouble-shooter” in a manufacturing plant, a meter reader, or an exterminator) the travel between those places is not travel of the nature described in this section, and the Portal Act has not significance in determining whether the travel time should be counted as time worked.
(f) Examples of walking, riding, or traveling which may be performed outside the workday and would normally be considered “preliminary” or “postliminary” activities are (1) walking or riding by an employee between the plant gate and the employee's lathe, workbench or other actual place of performance of his principal activity or activities; (2) riding on buses between a town and an outlying mine or factory where the employee is employed; and (3) riding on buses or trains from a logging camp to a particular site at which the logging operations are actually being conducted. 48
48 See Senate Report, p. 47; statements of Senator Donnell, 93 Cong. Rec. 2121, 2182, 3263.
(g) Other types of activities which may be performed outside the workday and, when performed under the conditions normally present, would be considered “preliminary” or “postliminary” activities, include checking in and out and waiting in line to do so, changing clothes, washing up or showering, and waiting in line to receive pay checks. 49
49 See Senate Report p. 47. Washing up after work, like the changing of clothes, may in certain situations be so directly related to the specific work the employee is employed to perform that it would be regarded as an integral part of the employee's “principal activity”. See colloquy between Senators Cooper and McGrath, 93 Cong. Rec. 2297–2298. See also paragraph (h) of this section and § 790.8(c). This does not necessarily mean, however, that travel between the washroom or clothes-changing place and the actual place of performance of the specific work the employee is employed to perform, would be excluded from the type of travel to which section 4(a) refers.
(h) As indicated above, an activity which is a “preliminary” or “postliminary” activity under one set of circumstances may be a principal activity under other conditions. 50 This may be illustrated by the following example: Waiting before the time established for the commencement of work would be regarded as a preliminary activity when the employee voluntarily arrives at his place of employment earlier than he is either required or expected to arrive. Where, however, an employee is required by his employer to report at a particular hour at his workbench or other place where he performs his principal activity, if the employee is there at that hour ready and willing to work but for some reason beyond his control there is no work for him to perform until some time has elapsed, waiting for work would be an integral part of the employee's principal activities. 51 The difference in the two situations is that in the second the employee was engaged to wait while in the first the employee waited to be engaged. 52
50 See paragraph (b) of this section. See also footnote 49.
51 Colloquy between Senators Cooper and McGrath, 93 Cong. Rec. 2298.