Working “Off the Clock” and Unpaid Wages

Perhaps you are an ambitious employee, striving to impress your supervisor by working after your shift is over, or maybe your manager says that you do not have to be paid for answering phones during your lunch break. Either way, these are just two examples of the many ways in which an employer might find themselves working off the clock, putting in time and effort, and then not getting paid any wages in return. If an employee is putting in time at work, and not getting paid, then this might be a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). If you are not exempt from the FLSA, your employer is legally obligated to pay you for all of the time that you work, and they are legally obligated to pay you time and a half for any hours you work over 40 in a workweek.

When is “working off the clock” illegal?

It is illegal for employers to not pay their employees for time worked unless the employer or employee is exempt from the FLSA. The FLSA is a federal law that makes it illegal to pay less than the federal minimum wage and to not pay overtime. Employers who bring in a minimum of $500,000 a year or are engaged in interstate commerce are covered by the FLSA. This covers most places of employment because the requirement for interstate commerce is construed broadly by courts. Employees of covered businesses benefit from the law’s protections unless they are in an exempt category. Exempt employees include executives, administrators, employees in professional roles such as attorneys or doctors, and certain other positions where different standards are set because of the nature of the job. For example, live-in caregivers and flight attendants are exempt from the FLSA.

If an employee works on an hourly basis, there is a good chance that he or she will be covered by the protections of the FLSA, and therefore must be paid for all of the work they do, and for all of their work time.

What are some examples of illegal off the clock work?

Some scenarios where employees might find themselves working off the clock include:

  • Not being paid for time spent in preparation

Employees should be compensated for time they spend setting up equipment, or opening a restaurant.

  • Not being paid for redoing a project

If an employee has completed an assignment, and then asked to make changes, those changed count as work time too.

  • Not being paid while waiting in between work assignments

If an employee is waiting in between projects, but has to be at work in the interim, he or she should be paid for that time.

  • Not being paid for meetings, and mandatory trainings

If an employee is required to be at work for work related meetings or trainings, they should be compensated for that time. If the employee shows up for a voluntary training, then that is not time the employee needs to be compensated for.

  • Not being paid for finishing up work after their shift

Time spent on work such as cleaning up a work site, dropping off equipment or other “wrapping up” sorts of tasks should be compensated.

Even if an employee is not asked to, but rather seems eager to stick around and help clean up or finish a project, the employee must be paid for that time.

What can I do if I have been made to work off the clock?

Since not paying employees for time spent working is against the law, you can file a complaint with the Wages and Hours Division of the Department of Labor. It is possible to recover back pay for unpaid work. You can recover up to three years of unpaid wages if your employer is found to have violated the FLSA.

If you find yourself in the position of not being paid for hours that you spend working, you should speak with an experienced employment law attorney to discuss the best strategy for recovering the wages that you have been denied.

Contact Stern Law, PLLC for A Free Consultation

At Stern Law, PLLC, we have compassionate and caring attorneys ready to work with you to find the best solution to your employment law related legal issues. Contact Stern Law, PLLC today at (844) 808-7529 for a free consultation with an experienced employment attorney.

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