Overtime FAQs - Is It Illegal to Work Off the Clock?

Overtime FAQs - Is It Illegal to Work Off the Clock?

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Overtime FAQs - Is It Illegal to Work Off the Clock?

Although working off the clock is illegal, workers frequently put extra hours in without getting paid overtime. You may not even realize that an employer is exploiting you. Staying back after your shift has ended to finish some tasks, answering emails after work, or engaging in any other work activities without getting paid can constitute working off the clock.

If you are required to work without receiving adequate pay, an employment attorney at Morgan & Morgan can help you understand your rights, determine your options, and potentially file a lawsuit for back pay and other damages. Get started today and contact us for a free case evaluation.

What Is Working “Off the Clock”?

Working off the clock describes any unpaid work activity that is not counted towards an employee’s hours. While there could be some leeway when it comes to business travel and training, an employee should generally get paid when performing an activity that benefits their employer.

According to The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employees should receive at least the minimum wage and appropriate overtime rates for any hours worked over the regular 40-hour workweek. “Hours worked" generally includes any time the employee is:

  • On duty
  • On their employer's premises
  • At another set place of work
  • Allowed (“suffered” or “permitted”) to work

In other words, if an employer either requires or allows you to work, you should receive adequate compensation. An employer may also be required to pay overtime if attendance was not requested but allowed. For example, you worked additional hours to help or train a coworker. 

Common Types of Working Off the Clock

Illegally working off the clock can arise in a variety of circumstances. Common examples of working off the clock include:

Unpaid work after officially finishing a shift – This can include finishing any tasks that could not be completed during regular hours, such as cleaning up a job site, returning equipment, and others.

Unpaid preparation work before a shift – Unpaid preparation work can include setting up a dining room or restaurant, truck warming or loading cargo, or any other unpaid work before officially starting a shift.

Unpaid revisions or reworking – Unpaid rework such as an employee correcting mistakes or revising work in their own time constitutes working off the clock. 

Waiting for assignments or work projects – An employee who is required to wait for work or assignments that are not immediately available must generally be paid for their time. 

Working off the clock can arise in numerous other work situations such as attending meetings without getting paid, completing administrative work in one’s own time, attending unpaid training, and others. 

Working off the clock is wage theft. However, workers do not have to put up with exploitation and can fight the illegal practice of working off the clock. If you are affected, an employer could owe you back pay and other damages. Our experienced employment attorneys can assess your claim and advise you comprehensively.

Who Can Working “Off the Clock” Be Legal? 

Most hourly employees are entitled to overtime pay. Salaried employees earning below a certain threshold, at the time of writing $684 per week or $35,568 per year, also generally have the right to receive overtime pay. 

Salaried employees earning more than $684 per week can be entitled to overtime pay unless they are exempt. Exempt professionals can include, among others:

  • Executives
  • Administrators
  • Teachers
  • Artists
  • IT professionals
  • Outside sales representatives 
  • Independent contractors

In some professions, putting extra hours in after or before work is somewhat expected. If your job falls into an exempt category, you are generally not entitled to overtime under federal and state employment regulations. 

However, unscrupulous employers may deliberately misclassify employees as independent contractors or change their job titles to fall into an exempt category. This amounts to nothing other than wage theft. If you experienced misclassification, being denied overtime pay, or another type of wage theft, consider seeking legal advice to find out if you could be entitled to compensation. 

How an Employment Lawyer Can Help

Handling a wage claim against your employer can feel stressful and intimidating. If there is a lot of unpaid overtime money at stake or you have been fired after filing a wage claim, an experienced attorney can protect you and defend your rights. Ways in which a lawyer can help include:

Clarify Your Options

Suing your employer for violating labor laws can be one way of getting justice. However, you could have several other options, such as: 

  • Filing a claim with your state’s labor department
  • Negotiating an informal settlement with an employer 

Both of these options can potentially be quicker, cheaper, and less hassle than filing a lawsuit. However, in some cases going to court may be the only way to get justice and the damages you deserve. A seasoned wage and hour attorney can help you weigh all options and make an informed decision.  

Determine Whether You Have Case

An employment lawyer will tell you honestly and openly whether you have a case for a lawsuit and what your costs and benefits could amount to. Your attorney can also calculate your damages and inform you about what you could recover.

Gather Evidence Proving Your Claim

Your knowledge of having been treated unfairly and not receiving pay for all the hours you put in is not enough to hold up in court. Claimants have to prove a wage and hour claim with appropriate evidence. Moreover, if you are filing a lawsuit against an employer who retaliated against you, you will have to prove retaliation, which can be challenging. An employment lawyer can help you pull the required evidence together for building a case against your employer. They can also help calculate back pay and other damages owed to you.

Standing up against an unscrupulous employer who may have managed to dodge labor laws for years and could have several attorneys on retainer can be nerve-wracking. However, having a tenacious employment lawyer in your corner will help to level the playing field. A lawyer can give you peace of mind and help with all aspects of pursuing a claim against an unethical employer.

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Get answers to commonly asked questions about our legal services and learn how we may assist you with your case.

Is It Illegal to Work Off the Clock - Overtime FAQs

  • What Are My Steps for Recovering Back Pay?

    Depending on your circumstances, filing a claim with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) or filing a private lawsuit could allow you to recover the back wages you deserve. You could receive up to three years of back pay for unpaid hours or overtime as well as liquidated damages, potentially allowing you to recover double back pay. 

    Filing a Claim with the DOL

    Since off the clock work is often illegal, employees can file a complaint with their local DOL office. Information you will need to file your claim includes:

    • Your name and contact details
    • The name and contact details of your employer
    • Details of your work 
    • Details of how and when you were paid
    • Any other relevant information such as pay stubs or records of hours worked

    Once you have filed a complaint, the DOL will investigate the case. If you are due to receive back pay, the DOL will manage the payment process. The agency may also penalize your employer.

    You Could File a Lawsuit 

    If your claim for unpaid wages and overtime is relatively small and uncomplicated, you could simply file a claim with your local DOL office. However, you can potentially file a private lawsuit for back pay and liquidated damages, as well as reimbursement for attorney’s fees and court expenses. 

    If you are missing a considerable amount of back pay, consider working with an employment lawyer who can represent you and determine the best course of action for recovering what you deserve. Before deciding on filing a lawsuit, take advantage of a free consultation where an employment lawyer can walk you through all your potential options. 

  • How Much Time Do I Have to File a Claim for Wage Theft?

    Generally, you must file a wage and hour claim within a certain time frame after the wage violation occurred. Once the deadline has passed, an employee is generally unable to recover back pay and other damages. Under the FLSA, individuals have two years to file a claim for recovering back wages and liquidated damages from an employer. If labor laws were willfully violated, the statute extends to three years. 

  • What if I Agreed to Work Off the Clock?

    There can be several reasons why employees may agree to work off the clock without pay, for example:

    • A worker wants to go above and beyond 
    • Unpaid overtime seems expected by supervisors
    • Employees receive perks for working off the clock
    • A new hire wants to make a good impression
    • A worker may be too embarrassed to ask about overtime pay

    Even if you agreed to volunteer your time, you and your employer might be breaking the law. Time worked should be recorded and paid. Therefore, it typically makes no difference whether you agreed to work off the clock or your employer refused to pay adequate overtime. An employer whose employees are working for free is violating FLSA law, and employees generally have legal recourse to recover the money owed to them.

  • Can An Employer Fire Me When I File a Wage and Hour Claim?

    Workers have the right to file a claim for back pay without having to fear retaliation by employers. It is illegal for an employer to terminate an employee in order to retaliate against them after filing a claim. 

    At-Will States 

    Most states, with the exception of Montana, adhere to some form of at-will employment law. In at-will states, an employer can generally fire a worker for any reason and at any time, provided they are not fired for an illegal reason such as discrimination or retaliation.

    However, since an employer does not need to give a reason when firing a worker, retaliation can be tricky to prove. The burden will be on the employee to provide conclusive evidence that the employer’s real motive for mistreatment or termination was retaliation. 

    You Could Sue a Retaliating Employer

    If you got fired or experienced another retaliatory action by an employer after filing your wage claim, you could pursue a retaliation or wrongful termination claim in addition to your wage claim. Workers will have to prove that the employer’s harmful action was motivated by retaliation and that the harm suffered is tangible, such as: 

    • A termination
    • Withholding a promotion
    • A demotion

    If you believe that you got fired, demoted, or otherwise mistreated by your employer due to filing a wage claim, you should speak to an employment lawyer as soon as possible to protect your legal rights. Exploiting workers and retaliating against them is reprehensible as well as illegal. You could have legal recourse against an employer and recover damages. 

  • Morgan & Morgan Fights for Workers’ Rights

    Do not let an employer get away with exploitation and the illegal practice of working off the clock. If you were refused overtime pay or expected to put in unpaid hours before or after your regular shifts, you could have a case and recover unpaid wages. Morgan & Morgan wants to help workers recover the pay they deserve and hold shady employers to account for their illegal and immoral actions. 

    Our firm’s motivated attorneys have successfully handled thousands of wage and hour cases and recovered millions of dollars of back pay and additional damages for wronged employees. We could help you get what you deserve too. 

    At Morgan & Morgan, you pay no attorney’s fees unless and until we win and you recover a payout. Do not wait with finding help and advice as the time to recover unpaid wages is limited. Contact us today to determine whether you have a case.

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