Ask an Employment Lawyer: My Boss Is Making Me Work “Off the Clock.” What Should I Do?Whenever you work without being compensated, you are working “off the clock,” and if your employer is putting pressure on you to do so, they could be in breach of the law. In this article, we’ll look at what you should do in this situation and when you should consult an employment lawyer.
Ask an Employment Lawyer: My Boss Is Making Me Work “Off the Clock.” What Should I do?
It’s easy it is to fall into the habit of working out of your scheduled hours. It could be that you answer a few emails at home after work, or you finish writing a report in your own time. Although it might seem harmless to complete your work in your own time on occasion, this should not be something that you are expected to do.
What Counts as “Off the Clock” Work?
Technically, this is any work that you do for your employer that is unpaid. Federal law states that when an employer requires you to work, you should receive compensation for your efforts. However, for many employees, working additional hours without pay has become standard practice, and this is when it may be illegal.
If you are expected to arrive before your paid shift to prepare for your job, you are working “off the clock.” This includes being asked to set up tables for sale in a restaurant or to turn on equipment in a workshop. If you are working in any capacity, you need to receive compensation for it.
At the end of your shift, your work should not follow you home. Your employer cannot expect you to take phone calls, visit clients, or finish off your paperwork in your free time. It is also unacceptable to stay on for a few hours after your shift to help customers or colleagues without being paid.
There are always deadlines to be met or unexpected emergencies, and employees often have to work longer hours to get things done. However, any additional hours worked must be paid as overtime.
What About Correcting Errors?
Your employer is not allowed to demand that you make corrections to your work in your own time. If you need to redo a task or to correct errors in your work, this must be completed within your paid working hours.
Working Through Breaks
Many employees choose to work through the lunch break to complete a task, but this should not become standard practice. If your employer is demanding that you work through your breaks to complete your work, this may be illegal as you are working “off the clock.”
The Fair Labor Standards Act
The Fair Labor Standards Act applies to all businesses in the US, and it states that employers must keep records of the hours that their employees work. The records must be kept for two years for all non-exempt workers. The FLSA act stipulates that all employees must be paid for work that they do outside their regular working hours.
As a standard, the act considers the work period to be forty hours a week over seven days, and any additional hours worked are overtime, but part-time workers are also covered by this legislation. If you work overtime, your compensation cannot be less than 1.5 times your usual hourly rate.
There are some professions that are exempt from overtime pay, and these include teachers and nurses. Exempt employees often have fixed salaries or flexible work schedules. The conditions in your contract may also make you exempt.
What Are the Penalties?
You are entitled to overtime pay for any additional hours that you have worked, and the FSLA states that your employer cannot refuse to pay you. If you decide to make a claim, you may be entitled to three years of back pay for unpaid overtime.
Receiving Liquidated Damages
In cases where a breach of contract has been proven, the court may also decide to pay you liquidated damages. Typically, the amount awarded in these cases is equal to the amount of overtime that is owed, so if you win your case, your compensation will be doubled.
Do I have a Case?
If you feel you have a case against your employer, it’s best to seek advice from a local legal expert as it may differ between states. Kansas City employment lawyers will be able to advise you on the specific work laws in this state, which will strengthen your case.
Evidencing the Claim
Before you can win your court case, you will need to provide evidence of working “off the clock.” In some cases, your employer’s records may be enough proof, but this is dependent on the unpaid overtime being recorded. You may also be able to use timesheets, text messages, and emails to prove that additional work was completed.
Many employees feel pressured into doing unpaid work or overtime, but there is legislation in place to prevent this from happening. If your employer expects you to work additional hours without pay, you should seek legal advice and make a claim for the compensation that you are owed.