In a short answer, often, yes. Working ‘off the clock’ is still work and you are not getting paid for that work. Whether you’re working off the clock to move up the ladder or if you’re required to come in early or stay late, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)--which applies to most workers--says that "off the clock" work, work that is unpaid or doesn't count toward overtime, is often illegal.
What Is the Fair Labor Standards Act?
Most employees, especially those paid hourly, are covered by the FLSA, which establishes minimum wage, overtime, and other protections for workers. Employees who are exempt from the FLSA's requirements are typically executive, administrative, or professional employees or workers in certain roles that may be commission-based. If you fall into the non-exempt employee category, you must be paid for all hours worked.
The FLSA states that work that is “off-the-clock” is the same as overtime not compensated by an employer at a standard hourly wage. Federal law defines employment to include permit to work, or “suffer” as result of the activity. Where an employer requires or allows workers to work overtime, under U.S. law that overtime is usually due compensation.
An employer is also generally obliged to pay a worker whose work is suffered. Suffered work is when an employee works extra hours to assist co-workers at the consent of the employer, yet they are unrequired and unpaid.
Common Examples of Off the Clock Work
Unpaid Preparation and Post Shift Work
Setting up a dining room before a shift at a restaurant, moving or loading equipment onto a truck before work for the day are both examples of unpaid preparation work. Similarly, unpaid work post-shift, like finishing, cleaning, and returning equipment is off-the-clock. Unpaid ‘administrative' work, like completing paperwork, meeting with management, reviewing patient charts or undergoing training done on an employee's own time are also examples of activities you should be paid to do.
Correcting Mistakes and Waiting for Work
When an employee is instructed to rework a project without pay, that time to rework the project must be paid. Additionally, if an employee is awaiting work when the job is not yet available, like assignments or time that an employer has allowed an employee to wait to perform a task, thus counted as work, and should be paid.
Learn More About Your Legal Options About Working Off the Clock
It's often illegal to work off the clock. If you're an employee who has been working off the clock, you may be eligible to file a claim with the Department of Labor and you may be able to recover up to three years of back wages for unpaid hours or unpaid overtime along with other expenses or compensation. At Brandon J. Broderick, Attorney at Law, our award-winning team may be able to help you file a claim for back pay, understand whether you're covered by the FLSA or answer your questions about your rights as a worker. Contact us today.