Mar 7, 2024

What Hourly Workers Need To Know

punching time card

When you’re an hourly worker, you know exactly what you deserve. For each hour you work, you should receive your hourly rate of pay. 

Often, you’ll be able to tell if your paycheck comes up short. But sometimes, your employer may underpay you or cheat you out of wages without you even noticing. They might not even know they’re doing it.

Hourly workers are often the frontline and first responders in emergencies. We’ve seen that recently with couriers, delivery drivers, and grocery store workers. Nurses, too, are often hourly workers. All these professions provide an essential service, and as such, deserve to be paid fairly. 

You deserve to be compensated for your hard, essential work. Here’s what to keep in mind if you’re an hourly employee, especially now. 

Proper Pay 

Do you ever work “off the clock?” That might include cleaning up after close (and after clocking out), doing prep work without logging the hours, or any work tasks you do where you’re not paid for your time.

Working “off the clock” is often a sign you’re being underpaid. Sometimes, workers are told to work off the clock so the boss can avoid paying overtime as well — and that’s overtime the workers deserve to be paid. 

Also, pay attention to your title. Misclassification is a huge issue for hourly workers. Sometimes, employers will give workers a title like “manager” or “assistant manager” in order to make them “exempt” employees when they shouldn’t be. That saves the employer money and keeps money out of the employee’s pocket. If your title has “manager” in it but you don’t have any managerial duties and you are not getting overtime pay, you should be aware there is the potential for misclassification. 

Additionally, if you’re a tipped employee (whether a waiter or a delivery driver), your hourly pay — with tips included — should equal the minimum wage. If you get paid $1-2 per delivery only, don’t get reimbursed for mileage, or your boss takes your tips, that’s cause for concern. 

Furlough and Layoffs

What is furlough? Furlough implies that, for the moment, you’re not working and aren’t receiving a paycheck. However, it’s expected that you will be rehired once they can afford to pay you. Furloughed employees are allowed to file for unemployment. 

Layoffs, however, are different. In a layoff, there is no expectation that you will be rehired by your employer. You should also be able to file for unemployment. 

You can find your state’s unemployment program here. Be sure that you file the claim through the state you work in (if you do not live and work in the same state). 

With the current surge in unemployment, the unemployment website for your state might be overwhelmed — try using the site either in the early morning or late at night. You can also try calling the unemployment hotline specific to your state. After you file an unemployment claim, the Department of Labor will evaluate it and decide if you qualify. 

If you believe you were wrongfully terminated, whether due to bias, harassment, or for other reasons, you can file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and contact a lawyer to ensure your protection.