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If your employer requires unpaid off-the-clock work for your job, you may think that’s not fair. It’s not. And it may be illegal. Forcing workers to carry out off-the-clock work duties either before or after their shifts is common practice, but often workers can stand up for themselves to receive fair compensation for unpaid overtime.

Why Off-the-Clock Work Happens

Federal and Wisconsin law requires employers to pay workers time and a half for every hour of overtime worked over forty hours per week. That includes all of the time before and after shifts when workers perform required, off-the-clock work tasks integral to their jobs. Some employers do not know this, while others ignore the law. Employers sometimes require workers to perform preparatory or clean-up tasks off-the-clock, thereby cutting their costs because “real work” is not happening during this time. While this might make economic sense to the employer, workers often feel slighted, and rightfully so. Fortunately, the law supports most workers’ right to be paid for off-the-clock work that is key to the job.

Common Examples of Off-the-Clock Work

Many employers require workers to perform key tasks before getting paid. Hawks Quindel’s wage and hour lawyers represent workers with pre-shift and post-shift pay violations in many areas of work, including telephone call center operators, factory workers, and construction workers. Examples of typical off-the-clock work requirements include:

• logging into your computer
• activating your telephone
• preparing equipment for your work
• putting on protective clothing
• attending meetings
• any other task that is necessary to prepare for your shift

Sometimes employers do not allow workers to clock in until those tasks are completed, but time spent doing that work may be compensable under federal and Wisconsin wage and hour laws. Even if it’s only a few minutes per day, workers may have a right to be paid for this off-the-clock work time. The same goes for the tasks employers require workers to perform at the end of a shift, after the worker clocks out but before the job is done. The law may require employers to pay workers for that off-the-clock work.

Off-the-Clock Work Includes Many Kinds of Drive Time

Another common off-the-clock work violation in many professions involves driving time. When workers drive as part of their jobs and are not paid for all of that driving and vehicle preparation time, the employer may be breaking the law by making employees work off the clock. While generally the time workers spend commuting to the job is not compensable, many situations arise where an employee must be paid for driving time. For example, if a worker must perform work at home prior to commuting to the office or first job site, the employer may have to pay for that drive time. Similarly, if a worker drives between jobs in the middle of the work day, the employer may be required to pay for that drive time.

Call Us to Discuss Your Off-the-Clock Work Questions

If your employer requires you to do off-the-clock work before or after your shift, or if you have questions about wage and hour laws, you may be able to recover unpaid wages. Call Hawks Quindel in Milwaukee at 414-271-8650 or in Madison at 608-257-0040 for a free wage and hour consultation.

Michele Sumara

Sharehold at Hawks Quindel, S.C.
Michele Sumara focuses her law practice on union-side labor law, wage and hour litigation on behalf of employees, social security disability, and the firm’s appellate practice. Attorney Sumara’s clients rely on her for her strong advocacy and her ability to cut through legal jargon to explain legal principles in plain English, both to clients and to the courts.