Is working off the clock illegal in California? How many hours can you work a day, and can your employer pay you in cash to keep you from racking up overtime hours? Here’s what you need to know.
What is Working Off the Clock?
Working off the clock is the phrase people use when they’re at work, performing the duties of their jobs, without being “punched in.” Employers track how many hours an employee works – but if a person isn’t punched in while working, the employer won’t know (or pay for) the true number of hours that person worked.
Some employers ask employees to work off the clock and to take cash as compensation – but even worse, some employers ask employees to work off the clock with no compensation.
Employers are required to pay employees for any activity that’s part of the job. Additionally, employers are required to keep track of the number of hours employees work so they can be fairly compensated for overtime.
How Many Hours Can You Legally Work in One Day in California?
You can work as long as you’d like in a day – as long as your employer compensates you fairly for your time. Under California law, your employer must pay you:
- Your regular wage for the first 8 hours of your shift
- 5 times your regular wage for all the hours worked over 8 but fewer than 12
- 2 times your regular wage for every hour over 12
That means if your regular wage is $20 per hour, 1.5 times your regular wage is $30 and double your regular wage is $40. That means you would make:
- $160 if you worked 8 hours
- $280 if you worked 12 hours
- $320 if you worked 13 hours
- $360 if you worked 14 hours
- …and so on, in increments of $40 per hour (because that’s double your regular wage)
However, when an employer asks you to work off the clock, the employer isn’t piling up your hours toward overtime – even if your boss is paying you cash, you still lose. Your employer cannot force you to work off the clock; that’s illegal.
Can Your Employer Text You When You’re Off the Clock?
The Fair Labor Standards Act requires employers to pay employees for time they spend performing work – and that includes time you spend working outside of your normal hours. That can, in many cases, include time you spend texting, emailing and performing other work-related tasks while you’re at lunch, at home or otherwise off the clock. Generally, your employer is supposed to compensate you for anything that’s an “integral part of the job” that you must complete.
That can include things like:
- Phone calls
- Zoom meetings
Related: What is FEHA?
What Happens if Your Employer Asks You to Work Off the Clock?
If an employer asks you to work off the clock, it can be a form of wage theft. You are entitled to pay for the time you spend performing work.
But what if your boss asks you to work for cash? Is that an acceptable alternative?
The simple answer is maybe. It’s unacceptable for your boss to ask you to work for cash rather than tracking your hours and going through your company’s normal payroll system. However, it’s okay for your employer to pay you in cash if you receive a paystub that shows all your pay, payroll deductions (including income taxes, FICA taxes, insurance and other withholdings).
Related: Minimum wage disputes and unpaid overtime
But if your employer pays you in cash to avoid paying taxes (or to help you avoid paying taxes), it’s called being paid under the table. Being paid under the table is unlawful, because it means your employer isn’t reporting you as an employee or taking deductions out of your paychecks. There’s also a pretty good chance that your employer isn’t paying you time-and-a-half or overtime – and that’s another matter entirely.
Related: California overtime laws for hourly workers
Has Your Employer Failed to Pay You for Hours You’ve Worked?
Some employees are on a salary and may not be entitled to overtime pay – but if you’re an hourly employee whose employer isn’t paying you for all the hours you’ve worked, you may have legal recourse.
Call us at 818-230-8380 or fill out the form below to consult with an experienced Glendale employment lawyer. We’ll ask you some questions about your situation (and answer your questions), and if your employer has violated your right to fair pay for work, we may be able to help you get what you’ve earned.