If you’re an hourly worker, both state and federal law require that your employer pay for all the hours you work. Unfortunately, some companies try to squeeze extra “off-the-clock” time from their workers to save money, so employees are not paid for hours worked. On the positive side, California has many protections for workers, and courts often rule in favor of those who bring lawsuits against their employers alleging these tactics.
Making workers perform duties “off-the-clock” so they’re not paid for hours worked can happen a few different ways:
Failing to Pay for Work Performed
Some employers will try to claim you’re not on the clock until you’re performing your job. Often this means you’re not paid for hours worked during set up or closedown work. For example, meatpacker Tyson/IBP lost a judgment against workers who said the company paid them for cutting meat but not for cleaning or putting on safety equipment. TD Bank settled a suit for $6 million with workers who were required to boot up bank computers each day, but couldn’t clock in until the machines were completely on. Dollar Tree assistant managers won a lawsuit because they weren’t paid for taking the nightly deposits to the bank after their shifts.
Asking for “Favors”
Another tactic employer’s use so employees are not paid for hours worked is waiting for a worker to clock out, and then asking for a job to be done. One example of this was alleged by Wal-Mart workers who claimed the company would regularly wait for a worker to clock out and then send them outside to bring in shopping carts—a task that often took 30 minutes.
Some companies make workers go through security protocols after their shifts to ensure nothing is stolen. Depending on the number of employees, this procedure can take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes. And in most cases, the workers are not being paid to wait in line. Both Amazon and Walgreens have had lawsuits brought against them for this practice. Unfortunately, in the case of Amazon, the workers lost their case because the wait was deemed to not be an essential part of their job.
A few things you can do to make sure you’re paid for all your work:
- Document your own time. Keep these records and your pay stubs so you can compare them to the hours listed on your paycheck;
- Make sure your manager is aware of your extra work. A recent California case ruled that it would be ok if you are not paid for hours worked is if the company or managers had no idea the employee was working extra. So make sure it’s well-known you’re putting in unpaid time.
- Challenge your manager if he or she asks for extra work without paying. Don’t take the company’s word that the law doesn’t apply to your situation!