Interstate truck drivers are generally exempt from the overtime requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act. However, this statutory exemption does not apply to minimum wage obligations, and employers are therefore required to track hours worked by drivers to assure that they are paid at least minimum wage. Last week, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division issued an opinion letter changing the way employers account for time spent in trucks’ sleeper berths as FLSA working time.

Under prior interpretations, sleeper birth time was considered compensable working time unless the driver was relieved of duties, was on a trip lasting more than 24 hours, and was provided “adequate facilities” to sleep. In the new opinion letter, DOL says that this interpretation is unnecessarily burdensome, and rejected it in favor of simply determining whether the driver is relieved of working duties. If so, the sleeper birth time is non-compensable under the FLSA.

Federal courts have taken a mixed view of this issue over recent years. Several district courts have upheld the prior DOL interpretation, and this reversal will likely result in additional court challenges to the classification of sleeper berth time as working time under the FLSA.