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Fair Labor Standards Act Advisor

Engagement in Interstate Commerce

Employees are covered on an individual basis when they are engaged in interstate or foreign commerce on the job. Interstate commerce means any work involving or related to the movement of persons or things (including intangibles, such as information) across state lines or from foreign countries.

Examples of covered employees who are engaged in interstate commerce include:

  • An employee such as an office or clerical worker who uses a telephone, facsimile machine, the U.S. mail, or a computer E-mail system to communicate with persons in another state.
  • An employee who drives or flies to another state.
  • An employee who unloads goods which came from an out of state supplier.
  • An employee such as a cashier or waitress who uses an electronic device which authorizes a credit card purchase.

Employees of businesses that are engaged in interstate commerce (instrumentalities of interstate commerce) are also generally covered. An instrumentality of interstate commerce includes railroads, highways and city streets, pipe lines, telephone and/or electrical transmission lines, airports, bus/truck/steamship terminals, radio or TV stations and river/streams/waterways over which interstate or foreign commerce regularly moves.

Employees who perform support functions for these instrumentalities of interstate commerce are so closely related to interstate commerce that they are also considered to be engaged in interstate commerce. It does not matter who employs these workers - it is the work that is important. Examples of covered employees performing support work who are also considered to be engaged in interstate commerce include:

  • A security worker at an airport.
  • A custodian who works for a janitorial contractor which cleans a bus terminal.
  • A laborer or mechanic who performs maintenance or repair work on machines used in the production of goods for interstate commerce or improvements to a city street.

The above are only examples and the listing is not intended to include all possible employees who are engaged in interstate commerce. In smaller firms these are examples most likely to apply. Now that you have a good idea of what is required to be engaged in interstate commerce, please answer the following question.

Are your employees engaged in interstate commerce? (You will need to ask this question for each employee or category of employee since your answer may be different for each.)