Hourly employees working off the clock, under the Fair Labor Standards Act, should usually be paid – and overtime rules should apply. Otherwise, the employer may be breaking the law.
Working off the clock can include things like:
- Staying late (after you’ve already punched out or your shift is over) to help out around the workplace
- Going to work early without punching in so you can complete work that your employer asked you to do
- Skipping lunch, and even though you’re not being paid, continuing to work (or eating lunch at your work station so you can keep working, even though you’re not being paid)
Hourly Employees Working Off the Clock: What Does That Really Mean?
When hourly employees are working off the clock, it means they’re not working for pay. For example, when you go into work early and you don’t clock in, but you’re doing work that your employer asked you to do – such as set up the work site – or if you stay late to finish up a project, after you’ve clocked out for the day, your employer could be legally required to pay you.
And “clocking in” doesn’t mean you have to punch a time card. Many people are paid for 40-hour workweeks, even without punching in or out each day.
Working “off the clock” means work done for an employer that the employer doesn’t compensate you for, and that doesn’t count toward your weekly hours for overtime purposes.
“Suffer or Permit to Work”
Federal law says that the term employ includes “suffer or permit to work.” In this context, suffer means that a worker engages in work that the employer didn’t request, but it is allowed – and that can mean working extra hours to help colleagues or to wrap up a project without being paid.
Permit to work means that if an employer requires employees to work, or if an employer lets employees work, that time must usually be paid.
What the Fair Labor Standards Act Says About Hourly Employees Working Off the Clock
The Fair Labor Standards Act, or FLSA, covers most employees. It establishes minimum wage, overtime and several other protections for nonexempt workers.
Some employees are not covered, such as some people who work in executive or administrative positions, or professional employees and workers who are employed in some industries (like commission-based sales or farming). These workers are considered exempt.
All nonexempt workers – the people the FLSA protects – are entitled to payment for all the hours they work.
Examples of Hourly Employees Working Off the Clock
Some of the most common examples of off-the-clock work, which can happen at the workplace or offsite, such as at home or elsewhere, include:
- Administrative work. In many cases, FLSA protects you from completing paperwork, attending meetings or reviewing documentation, or undergoing training on your own time rather than on your employer’s time.
- Correcting and redoing work. Sometimes when an employer asks an employee to redo work on a project or correct errors, the time the employee took to do so must be paid.
- Post-shift work. Your employer may be required to pay you for cleaning up after work, finishing things you didn’t get to during your shift or workday, or dropping off equipment at another site.
- Preparation. When you’re required to set up your workplace before a shift starts, load a vehicle, prepare a work site or even warm up a vehicle, your employer is generally required to pay you.
Finally, in some cases, waiting for work when the employer doesn’t provide it immediately is supposed to be paid time.
Not all cases qualify as off-the-clock work that should be paid, though. If you’re not sure about your own situation, you should talk to a Glendale employment lawyer who can clarify.
Is it Illegal for Hourly Workers to Work Off the Clock?
In many cases, it is absolutely illegal for employers to require hourly workers to work off the clock. There are remedies for people whose employers have illegally required them to work without pay, too.
Employees may be able to recover up to 3 years’ worth of back wages for unpaid hours and unpaid overtime (when the unpaid work time adds up to overtime), as well as liquidated damages. These damages together can total double what the employer owes the employee – and in some cases, workers can recover the attorney fees they spent on the case.
Do You Need to Talk to a Lawyer About Working Off the Clock?
Hourly Employees working off the clock can call an employment lawyer for help. We’re available at 818-230-8380 for a free case review. We’ll answer your questions and talk about possible outcomes of your case, as well as give you the legal advice you need.