Working off the clock can be problematic for an employer. One reason is that time clocks or time sheets exist to document an employee’s work hours. When workers do not punch in, the book keeping of hours worked becomes nebulous. However, aside from that, employees can be subject to wage and hour lawsuits, penalties and other additional expenses when they fail to pay employees for time worked.
What Is “Working Off the Clock”?
Working off the clock refers to work an employee does that is not paid or does not count toward the total number of weekly hours worked.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, work that is done off the clock includes “all the time an employee must be on duty, on the employer’s premises or at any other prescribed place of work.”
Why Is Working Off the Clock Illegal?
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) establishes the law for wages and hours that employees work. The FLSA addresses overtime, minimum wage and various protections for most workers. Exceptions exist for overtime pay regarding certain administrative and professional employees in some industries, and also for executives, managers and commission based sales employees.
Most employees, those who are not exempt and work over 40 hours in a week, must receive overtime pay for the hours exceeding the 40-hour workweek.
An employee receiving an hourly wage must receive payment for all the work done, even when working extra hours on tasks that are not requested, but which the employer allows.
Examples that Qualify as Working Off the Clock
If you call employees outside of work or send them work related emails that they must answer, you would be encouraging unpaid work or work done “off the clock.”
If you allow your employees to come in early or stay late to finish their work tasks, you can run into problems as an employer. Perhaps your restaurant worker is cleaning up or your laborer is simply dropping off equipment at another site outside of work hours. Off-the-clock work includes employees who work outside of the scheduled hours, for example to get a worksite ready for the production day. Workers who correct errors in paperwork past the time they should’ve gone home also qualify as working off the clock. Even having an employee wait to receive an assignment, despite the fact the employee is not doing anything but waiting, qualifies as work time.
If you are unsure about whether your employees are working off the clock, seek legal advice. Our attorneys at Stephen Hans & Associates are glad to advise you.