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Does your employer make you work off the clock?

You may be one of those fortunate people in California who has found a job that is fulfilling and enjoyable. Perhaps you work with a group of people who are fun and uplifting. You consider your co-workers your friends, and you even spend time with them after work and on weekends.

No matter how much you love your job or your co-workers, the main purpose of work is to earn money. If you spend time off the clock doing tasks exclusive to your employment, your employer is likely breaking the laws governed by the Fair Labor Standards Act, and you have the right to demand fair compensation for your time.

Common examples of off-the-clock assignments

In addition to failing to pay you for the work you do off the clock, allowing or forcing you to work without compensation also prevents that time from accumulating with your regularly scheduled hours. In other words, if your employer counted the time you work off the clock, you may be eligible for overtime at a higher rate than your normal pay. Withholding overtime is a serious abuse of employees. Some ways in which your employer may require you to work off the clock include any of these or others:

  • Setting up your wait section in a restaurant
  • Warming or loading your truck before beginning your route
  • Re-doing or fixing mistakes on a project
  • Cleaning equipment or re-stocking supplies for the next shift
  • Attending mandatory training or meetings outside your scheduled hours
  • Taking your unpaid meal break at your desk to answer phones or reply to emails
  • Helping a co-worker who is behind on assignments

Your employer cannot ask you to clock out while you are waiting for an assignment or during other down time, such as when your computer needs to reboot. Even if you voluntarily stay after hours or come in early to do prep, paperwork or set-up, your employer is in violation of FLSA.

If your boss demands, coerces or allows you to work off the clock, he or she may owe you back wages. In fact, you may be able to claim off-the-clock wages as far back as three years. You may also qualify for your employer to pay your legal fees as well as any damages you suffered. The process of claiming the wages you deserve begins with a complaint to the U.S. Department of Labor. An experienced attorney can assist you in seeking your lost wages.

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