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e-CFR data is current as of May 28, 2020

Title 29Subtitle BChapter VSubchapter APart 531 → Subpart C


Title 29: Labor
PART 531—WAGE PAYMENTS UNDER THE FAIR LABOR STANDARDS ACT OF 1938


Subpart C—Interpretations


Contents
§531.25   Introductory statement.
§531.26   Relation to other laws.

How Payments May Be Made

§531.27   Payment in cash or its equivalent required.
§531.28   Restrictions applicable where payment is not in cash or its equivalent.
§531.29   Board, lodging, or other facilities.
§531.30   “Furnished” to the employee.
§531.31   “Customarily” furnished.
§531.32   “Other facilities.”
§531.33   “Reasonable cost”; “fair value.”
§531.34   Payment in scrip or similar medium not authorized.
§531.35   “Free and clear” payment; “kickbacks.”

Payment Where Additions or Deductions Are Involved

§531.36   Nonovertime workweeks.
§531.37   Overtime workweeks.

Payments Made to Persons Other Than Employees

§531.38   Amounts deducted for taxes.
§531.39   Payments to third persons pursuant to court order.
§531.40   Payments to employee's assignee.

§531.25   Introductory statement.

(a) The ultimate decisions on interpretations of the Act are made by the courts (Mitchell v. Zachry, 362 U.S. 310; Kirschbaum v. Walling, 316 U.S. 517). Court decisions supporting interpretations contained in this subpart are cited where it is believed they may be helpful. On matters which have not been determined by the courts, it is necessary for the Secretary of Labor and the Administrator to reach conclusions as to the meaning and the application of provisions of the law in order to carry out their responsibilities of administration and enforcement (Skidmore v. Swift, 323 U.S. 134). In order that these positions may be made known to persons who may be affected by them, official interpretations are issued by the Administrator on the advice of the Solicitor of Labor, as authorized by the Secretary (Reorganization Plan 6 of 1950, 64 Stat. 1263; Gen. Order 45A, May 24, 1950, 15 FR 3290). The Supreme Court has recognized that such interpretations of this Act “provide a practical guide to employers and employees as to how the office representing the public interest in its enforcement will seek to apply it” and “constitute a body of experience and informed judgment to which courts and litigants may properly resort for guidance.” Further, as stated by the Court: “Good administration of the Act and good judicial administration alike require that the standards of public enforcement and those for determining private rights shall be at variance only where justified by very good reasons.” (Skidmore v. Swift, 323 U.S. 134.)

(b) The interpretations of the law contained in this subpart are official interpretations of the Department of Labor with respect to the application under described circumstances of the provisions of law which they discuss. The interpretations indicate, with respect to the methods of paying the compensation required by sections 6 and 7 and the application thereto of the provisions of section 3(m) of the Act, the construction of the law which the Secretary of Labor and the Administrator believe to be correct and which will guide them in the performance of their administrative duties under the Act unless and until they are otherwise directed by authoritative decisions of the courts or conclude, upon reexamination of an interpretation, that it is incorrect. Reliance may be placed upon the interpretations as provided in section 10 of the Portal-to-Portal Act (29 U.S.C. 259) so long as they remain effective and are not modified, amended, rescinded, or determined by judicial authority to be incorrect. For discussion of section 10 of the Portal-to-Portal Act, see part 790 of this chapter.

§531.26   Relation to other laws.

Various Federal, State, and local legislation requires the payment of wages in cash; prohibits or regulates the issuance of scrip, tokens, credit cards, “dope checks” or coupons; prevents or restricts payment of wages in services or facilities; controls company stores and commissaries; outlaws “kickbacks”; restrains assignment and garnishment of wages; and generally governs the calculation of wages and the frequency and manner of paying them. Where such legislation is applicable and does not contravene the requirements of the Act, nothing in the Act, the regulations, or the interpretations announced by the Administrator should be taken to override or nullify the provisions of these laws.

How Payments May Be Made

§531.27   Payment in cash or its equivalent required.

(a) Standing alone, sections 6 and 7 of the Act require payments of the prescribed wages, including overtime compensation, in cash or negotiable instrument payable at par. Section 3(m) provides, however, for the inclusion in the “wage” paid to any employee, under the conditions which it prescribes of the “reasonable cost,” or “fair value” as determined by the Secretary, of furnishing such employee with board, lodging, or other facilities. In addition, section 3(m) provides that a tipped employee's wages may consist in part of tips. It is section 3(m) which permits and governs the payment of wages in other than cash.

(b) It should not be assumed that because the term “wage” does not appear in section 7, all overtime compensation must be paid in cash and may not be paid in board, lodging, or other facilities. There appears to be no evidence in either the statute or its legislative history which demonstrates the intention to provide one rule for the payment of the minimum wage and another rule for the payment of overtime compensation. The principles stated in paragraph (a) of this section are considered equally applicable to payment of the minimum hourly wage required by section 6 or of the wages required by the equal pay provisions of section 6(d), and to payment, when overtime is worked, of the compensation required by section 7. Thus, in determining whether he has met the minimum wage and overtime requirements of the Act, the employer may credit himself with the reasonable cost to himself of board, lodging, or other facilities customarily furnished by him to his employees when the cost of such board, lodging, or other facilities is not excluded from wages paid to such employees under the term of a bona fide collective bargaining agreement applicable to the employees. Unless the context clearly indicates otherwise, the term “wage” is used in this part to designate the amount due under either section 6 or section 7 without distinction. It should be remembered, however, that the wage paid for a job, within the meaning of the equal pay provisions of section 6(d), may include remuneration for employment which is not included in the employee's regular rate of pay under section 7(e) of the act or is not allocable to compensation for hours of work required by the minimum wage provisions of section 6. Reference should be made to parts 778 and 800 of this chapter for a more detailed discussion of the applicable principles.

(c) Tips may be credited or offset against the wages payable under the Act in certain circumstances, as discussed later in this subpart. See also the recordkeeping requirements contained in part 516 of this chapter.

§531.28   Restrictions applicable where payment is not in cash or its equivalent.

It appears to have been the clear intention of Congress to protect the basic minimum wage and overtime compensation required to be paid to the employee by sections 6 and 7 of the Act from profiteering or manipulation by the employer in dealings with the employee. Section 3(m) of the Act and subpart B of this part accordingly prescribe certain limitations and safeguards which control the payment of wages in other than cash or its equivalent. (Special recordkeeping requirements must also be met. These are contained in part 516 of this chapter.) These provisions, it should be emphasized, do not prohibit payment of wages in facilities furnished either as additions to a stipulated wage or as items for which deductions from the stipulated wage will be made; they prohibit only the use of such a medium of payment to avoid the obligation imposed by sections 6 and 7.

§531.29   Board, lodging, or other facilities.

Section 3(m) applies to both of the following situations: (a) Where board, lodging, or other facilities are furnished in addition to a stipulated wage; and (b) where charges for board, lodging, or other facilities are deducted from a stipulated wage. The use of the word “furnishing” and the legislative history of section 3(m) clearly indicate that this section was intended to apply to all facilities furnished by the employer as compensation to the employee, regardless of whether the employer calculates charges for such facilities as additions to or deductions from wages.

§531.30   “Furnished” to the employee.

The reasonable cost of board, lodging, or other facilities may be considered as part of the wage paid an employee only where customarily “furnished” to the employee. Not only must the employee receive the benefits of the facility for which he is charged, but it is essential that his acceptance of the facility be voluntary and uncoerced. See Williams v. Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Co. (E.D.N.C.). 1 W.H. Cases 289.

§531.31   “Customarily” furnished.

The reasonable cost of board, lodging, or other facilities may be considered as part of the wage paid an employee only where “customarily” furnished to the employee. Where such facilities are “furnished” to the employee, it will be considered a sufficient satisfaction of this requirement if the facilities are furnished regularly by the employer to his employees or if the same or similar facilities are customarily furnished by other employees engaged in the same or similar trade, business, or occupation in the same or similar communities. See Walling v. Alaska Pacific Consolidated Mining Co., 152 F. (2d) 812 (C.A. 9), cert. denied, 327 U.S. 803; Southern Pacific Co. v. Joint Council (C.A. 9) 7 W.H. Cases 536. Facilities furnished in violation of any Federal, State, or local law, ordinance or prohibition will not be considered facilities “customarily” furnished.

§531.32   “Other facilities.”

(a) “Other facilities,” as used in this section, must be something like board or lodging. The following items have been deemed to be within the meaning of the term: Meals furnished at company restaurants or cafeterias or by hospitals, hotels, or restaurants to their employees; meals, dormitory rooms, and tuition furnished by a college to its student employees; housing furnished for dwelling purposes; general merchandise furnished at company stores and commissaries (including articles of food, clothing, and household effects); fuel (including coal, kerosene, firewood, and lumber slabs), electricity, water, and gas furnished for the noncommercial personal use of the employee; transportation furnished employees between their homes and work where the travel time does not constitute hours worked compensable under the Act and the transportation is not an incident of and necessary to the employment.

(b) Shares of capital stock in an employer company, representing only a contingent proprietary right to participate in profits and losses or in the assets of the company at some future dissolution date, do not appear to be “facilities” within the meaning of the section.

(c) It should also be noted that under §531.3(d)(1), the cost of furnishing “facilities” which are primarily for the benefit or convenience of the employer will not be recognized as reasonable and may not therefore be included in computing wages. Items in addition to those set forth in §531.3 which have been held to be primarily for the benefit or convenience of the employer and are not therefore to be considered “facilities” within the meaning of section 3(m) include: Safety caps, explosives, and miners' lamps (in the mining industry); electric power (used for commercial production in the interest of the employer); company police and guard protection; taxes and insurance on the employer's buildings which are not used for lodgings furnished to the employee; “dues” to chambers of commerce and other organizations used, for example, to repay subsidies given to the employer to locate his factory in a particular community; transportation charges where such transportation is an incident of and necessary to the employment (as in the case of maintenance-of-way employees of a railroad); charges for rental of uniforms where the nature of the business requires the employee to wear a uniform; medical services and hospitalization which the employer is bound to furnish under workmen's compensation acts, or similar Federal, State, or local law. On the other hand, meals are always regarded as primarily for the benefit and convenience of the employee. For a discussion of reimbursement for expenses such as “supper money,” “travel expenses,” etc., see §778.217 of this chapter.

§531.33   “Reasonable cost”; “fair value.”

(a) Section 3(m) directs the Administrator to determine “the reasonable cost *  *  * to the employer of furnishing *  *  * facilities” to the employee, and in addition it authorizes him to determine “the fair value” of such facilities for defined classes of employees and in defined areas, which may be used in lieu of the actual measure of the cost of such facilities in ascertaining the “wages” paid to any employee. Subpart B contains three methods whereby an employer may ascertain whether any furnished facilities are a part of “wages” within the meaning of section 3(m): (1) An employer may calculate the “reasonable cost” of facilities in accordance with the requirements set forth in §531.3; (2) an employer may request that a determination of “reasonable cost” be made, including a determination having particular application; and (3) an employer may request that a determination of “fair value” of the furnished facilities be made to be used in lieu of the actual measure of the cost of the furnished facilities in assessing the “wages” paid to an employee.

(b) “Reasonable cost,” as determined in §531.3 “does not include a profit to the employer or to any affiliated person.” Although the question of affiliation is one of fact, where any of the following persons operate company stores or commissaries or furnish lodging or other facilities they will normally be deemed “affiliated persons” within the meaning of the regulations: (1) A spouse, child, parent, or other close relative of the employer; (2) a partner, officer, or employee in the employer company or firm; (3) a parent, subsidiary, or otherwise closely connected corporation; and (4) an agent of the employer.

§531.34   Payment in scrip or similar medium not authorized.

Scrip, tokens, credit cards, “dope checks,” coupons, and similar devices are not proper mediums of payment under the Act. They are neither cash nor “other facilities” within the meaning of section 3(m). However, the use of such devices for the purpose of conveniently and accurately measuring wages earned or facilities furnished during a single pay period is not prohibited. Piecework earnings, for example, may be calculated by issuing tokens (representing a fixed amount of work performed) to the employee, which are redeemed at the end of the pay period for cash. The tokens do not discharge the obligation of the employer to pay wages, but they may enable him to determine the amount of cash which is due to the employee. Similarly, board, lodging, or other facilities may be furnished during the pay period in exchange for scrip or coupons issued prior to the end of the pay period. The reasonable cost of furnishing such facilities may be included as part of the wage, since payment is being made not in scrip but in facilities furnished under the requirements of section 3(m). But the employer may not credit himself with “unused scrip” or “coupons outstanding” on the pay day in determining whether he has met the requirements of the Act because such scrip or coupons have not been redeemed for cash or facilities within the pay period. Similarly, the employee cannot be charged with the loss or destruction of scrip or tokens.

§531.35   “Free and clear” payment; “kickbacks.”

Whether in cash or in facilities, “wages” cannot be considered to have been paid by the employer and received by the employee unless they are paid finally and unconditionally or “free and clear.” The wage requirements of the Act will not be met where the employee “kicks-back” directly or indirectly to the employer or to another person for the employer's benefit the whole or part of the wage delivered to the employee. This is true whether the “kick-back” is made in cash or in other than cash. For example, if it is a requirement of the employer that the employee must provide tools of the trade which will be used in or are specifically required for the performance of the employer's particular work, there would be a violation of the Act in any workweek when the cost of such tools purchased by the employee cuts into the minimum or overtime wages required to be paid him under the Act. See also in this connection, §531.32(c).

Payment Where Additions or Deductions Are Involved

§531.36   Nonovertime workweeks.

(a) When no overtime is worked by the employees, section 3(m) and this part apply only to the applicable minimum wage for all hours worked. To illustrate, where an employee works 40 hours a week at a cash wage rate of at least the applicable minimum wage and is paid that amount free and clear at the end of the workweek, and in addition is furnished facilities, no consideration need be given to the question of whether such facilities meet the requirements of section 3(m) and this part, since the employee has received in cash the applicable minimum wage for all hours worked. Similarly, where an employee is employed at a rate in excess of the applicable minimum wage and during a particular workweek works 40 hours for which the employee receives at least the minimum wage free and clear, the employer having deducted from wages for facilities furnished, whether such deduction meets the requirement of section 3(m) and subpart B of this part need not be considered, since the employee is still receiving, after the deduction has been made, a cash wage of at least the minimum wage for each hour worked. Deductions for board, lodging, or other facilities may be made in nonovertime workweeks even if they reduce the cash wage below the minimum wage, provided the prices charged do not exceed the “reasonable cost” of such facilities. When such items are furnished the employee at a profit, the deductions from wages in weeks in which no overtime is worked are considered to be illegal only to the extent that the profit reduces the wage (which includes the “reasonable cost” of the facilities) below the required minimum wage. Facilities must be measured by the requirements of section 3(m) and this part to determine if the employee has received the applicable minimum wage in cash or in facilities which may be legitimately included in “wages” payable under the Act.

(b) Deductions for articles such as tools, miners' lamps, dynamite caps, and other items which do not constitute “board, lodging, or other facilities” may likewise be made in nonovertime workweeks if the employee nevertheless received the required minimum wage in cash free and clear; but to the extent that they reduce the wages of the employee in any such workweek below the minimum required by the Act, they are illegal.

[32 FR 13575, Sept. 28, 1967, as amended at 76 FR 18855, Apr. 5, 2011]

§531.37   Overtime workweeks.

(a) Section 7 requires that the employee receive compensation for overtime hours at “a rate of not less than one and one-half times the regular rate at which he is employed.” When overtime is worked by an employee who receives the whole or part of his or her wage in facilities and it becomes necessary to determine the portion of wages represented by facilities, all such facilities must be measured by the requirements of section 3(m) and subpart B of this part. It is the Administrator's opinion that deductions may be made, however, on the same basis in an overtime workweek as in nonovertime workweeks (see §531.36), if their purpose and effect are not to evade the overtime requirements of the Act or other law, providing the amount deducted does not exceed the amount which could be deducted if the employee had only worked the maximum number of straight-time hours during the workweek. Deductions in excess of this amount for such articles as tools or other articles which are not “facilities” within the meaning of the Act are illegal in overtime workweeks as well as in nonovertime workweeks. There is no limit on the amount which may be deducted for “board, lodging, or other facilities” in overtime workweeks (as in workweeks when no overtime is worked), provided that these deductions are made only for the “reasonable cost” of the items furnished. These principles assume a situation where bona fide deductions are made for particular items in accordance with the agreement or understanding of the parties. If the situation is solely one of refusal or failure to pay the full amount of wages required by section 7, these principles have no application. Deductions made only in overtime workweeks, or increases in the prices charged for articles or services during overtime workweeks will be scrutinized to determine whether they are manipulations to evade the overtime requirements of the Act.

(b) Where deductions are made from the stipulated wage of an employee, the regular rate of pay is arrived at on the basis of the stipulated wage before any deductions have been made. Where board, lodging, or other facilities are customarily furnished as additions to a cash wage, the reasonable cost of the facilities to the employer must be considered as part of the employee's regular rate of pay. See Walling v. Alaska Pacific Consolidated Mining Co., 152 F.2d 812 (9th Cir. 1945), cert. denied, 327 U.S. 803.

[76 FR 18855, Apr. 5, 2011]

Payments Made to Persons Other Than Employees

§531.38   Amounts deducted for taxes.

Taxes which are assessed against the employee and which are collected by the employer and forwarded to the appropriate governmental agency may be included as “wages” although they do not technically constitute “board, lodging, or other facilities” within the meaning of section 3(m). This principle is applicable to the employee's share of social security and State unemployment insurance taxes, as well as other Federal, State, or local taxes, levies, and assessments. No deduction may be made for any tax or share of a tax which the law requires to be borne by the employer.

§531.39   Payments to third persons pursuant to court order.

(a) Where an employer is legally obliged, as by order of a court of competent and appropriate jurisdiction, to pay a sum for the benefit or credit of the employee to a creditor of the employee, trustee, or other third party, under garnishment, wage attachment, trustee process, or bankruptcy proceeding, deduction from wages of the actual sum so paid is not prohibited: Provided, That neither the employer nor any person acting in his behalf or interest derives any profit or benefit from the transaction. In such case, payment to the third person for the benefit and credit of the employee will be considered equivalent, for the purposes of the Act, to payment to the employee.

(b) The amount of any individual's earnings withheld by means of any legal or equitable procedure for the payment of any debt may not exceed the restriction imposed by section 303(a), title III, Restriction on Garnishment, of the Consumer Credit Protection Act (82 Stat. 163, 164; 15 U.S.C. 1671 et seq.). The application of title III is discussed in part 870 of this chapter. When the payment to a third person of moneys withheld pursuant to a court order under which the withholdings exceeds that permitted by the CCPA, the excess will not be considered equivalent to payment of wages to the employee for purpose of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

[35 FR 10757, July 2, 1970]

§531.40   Payments to employee's assignee.

(a) Where an employer is directed by a voluntary assignment or order of his employee to pay a sum for the benefit of the employee to a creditor, donee, or other third party, deduction from wages of the actual sum so paid is not prohibited: Provided, That neither the employer nor any person acting in his behalf or interest, directly or indirectly, derives any profit or benefit from the transaction. In such case, payment to the third person for the benefit and credit of the employee will be considered equivalent, for purposes of the Act, to payment to the employee.

(b) No payment by the employer to a third party will be recognized as a valid payment of compensation required under the Act where it appears that such payment was part of a plan or arrangement to evade or circumvent the requirements of section 3(m) or subpart B of this part. For the protection of both employer and employee it is suggested that full and adequate record of all assignments and orders be kept and preserved and that provisions of the applicable State law with respect to signing, sealing, witnessing, and delivery be observed.

(c) Under the principles stated in paragraphs (a) and (b) of this section, employers have been permitted to treat as payments to employees for purposes of the Act sums paid at the employees' direction to third persons for the following purposes: Sums paid, as authorized by the employee, for the purchase in his behalf of U.S. savings stamps or U.S. savings bonds; union dues paid pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement with bona fide representatives of the employees and as permitted by law; employees' store accounts with merchants wholly independent of the employer; insurance premiums (paid to independent insurance companies where the employer is under no obligation to supply the insurance and derives, directly or indirectly, no benefit or profit from it); voluntary contributions to churches and charitable, fraternal, athletic, and social organizations, or societies from which the employer receives no profit or benefit directly or indirectly.

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