Q & A Session – Off-Duty Restrictions


Ask the Lawyer received the following question (paraphrased for easier reading and clarity) from a reader on a legal matter that might be of interest to the entire audience.


I am a civilian Federal law enforcement agent.  I have been sent on Temporary Duty (TDY) to a camp for approximately six weeks of training.  We work twelve hours each day and are compensated for those twelve hours.  When we are off-duty, we are not compensated, and we are not allowed to leave the camp.  We are told that if we do, we will be disciplined.  We are not allowed to even go out to have a meal or see a movie.  I do not understand how I can be off duty and not receiving pay, but still not permitted to leave the camp to engage in unobjectionable activities.  Is this legal?


The conduct you have described does not appear to be lawful under the Fair Labor Standards Act, assuming you are covered.  As you are not free to leave, it appears to me that you are constantly held in an on-duty status.  When you are required to be on-duty for a period of twenty-four (24) hours or more, as you appear to be, you may agree to exclude a period of up to eight (8) hours for sleeping and meal periods per day.  Thus, I believe you should be paid for at least sixteen (16) hours per day. However, if you have no agreement to exclude a period of up to eight (8) hours, you should be credited as working all twenty-four hours.

The relevant regulations can be found at Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Part  758.22, while the regulations governing on duty and off duty status are found at 29 C.F.R. §185-15-16.

Bill Bransford is managing partner of Shaw, Bransford & Roth, PC.

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