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Off-the-Clock Wage Violations

If Your Employer Asks You to Perform Work Tasks Off the Clock, You May Be Entitled to Back-Pay

The most common way employers violate the FLSA and Wisconsin Wage Laws is failing to pay employees for all hours worked; we call this not paying for off-the-clock work. Forcing workers to carry out off-the-clock work duties either before, during or after their shifts is common practice, but workers can stand up for themselves to receive fair compensation for unpaid overtime.

Off-the-Clock Work Laws: State and Federal Standards

An employer must pay for all work the employer “suffered or permitted” to be worked – even where the work was not requested by the employer. If the employer knows about the work being performed, it must be paid working time. If an employer does not want an employee to work, the employer must exercise its control to see that the work is not performed. An example of this is where an employer has a “no overtime” rule but the employer knows overtime is being performed despite the rule. In this circumstance, the time worked must be paid time.

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. This includes all of the time before and after shifts when workers perform required work tasks integral to their jobs. Some employers do not know this, while others ignore the law to avoid paying overtime wages. 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 Violations of Off-the-Clock Work Laws

An Employer Must Pay for Your Pre-Shift Work

An employee’s pay must start when the employee starts his or her first principle activity. Employers regularly try to trim labor costs by not paying for time spent:

• Donning and doffing (putting on and taking off) personal protective equipment (PPE)
• Preparing equipment or preparing a workspace
• Booting a computer
• Starting computer programs
• Pre-shift meetings
• Loading tools and other equipment into a vehicle

Call center employees are a good example of an industry where there are many violations of the FLSA and Wisconsin wage laws. Call center employees have to arrive to their jobs and be ready to start taking calls at a certain time. But, prior to that time, they must obtain instructions from their supervisor, start their computer, and load any number of programs prior to their assigned start time – all without compensation. Similarly, construction and landscape crews must meet at a central work location, obtain instructions and tools and drive to the worksite prior to receiving any compensation. Not paying for this pre-shift off-the-clock work violates the FLSA and Wisconsin’s wage and hour laws.

Work During an Unpaid Lunch Break is Compensable Work

Employers often force their employees to take an unpaid lunch break or meal period during the workday, while other employers automatically deduct a lunch period from their employees time. Under the FLSA and Wisconsin wage and hour laws, any uncompensated meal period must be at least thirty minutes in length. Any break less than thirty minutes must be paid working time. Nurses and other hospital staff are regularly subject to auto-deduct policies despite frequent interruptions in their unpaid breaks.

Where an employee’s unpaid lunch break is interrupted, it cannot be deducted from the employee’s hours worked unless the employee later receives at least a full thirty minutes of rest completely free from work whether that work is active or inactive.

Additionally, under Wisconsin’s wage laws, an employee must be able to leave the employer’s premises during an unpaid break. Employers often require security guards or secretaries to stay at their posts or on the employer’s premises when taking their unpaid meal period – this violates Wisconsin’s wage laws.

Travel Time Between Work Locations is Paid Time

Employees who travel between job sites during the day must be paid for the time it takes to travel between job sites. Similarly, employees who must meet at a central work location to receive instructions, pick up equipment, and then travel to the first work site must be paid for the travel time between the central location and the first work site. Under the continuous workday rule, once the workday starts, travel time must be paid.

Work Performed From Home Must Also Be Paid

An employee who has access to email, has a laptop, or has a smart phone must be paid for the time they spend using these electronic devices. In this day and age, the line between work and family life is becoming more and more blurred. However, hourly employees or employees eligible for overtime pay must be paid for the time they check their emails, spend talking on their phone, or working on a laptop or through remote access when they are off-the-clock.

Hawks Quindel’s Off-The-Clock Attorneys Can Help You Recover The Wages You Have Earned

The experienced off-the-clock attorneys at Hawks Quindel have assisted thousands of employees in recovering pay for off-the-clock work. Whether you are working during your unpaid lunch, you are working from home, or you are not paid for pre-shift activities you must do to perform your job, Hawks Quindel’s experienced wage team can help. The attorneys at Hawks Quindel are experienced in class and collective action claims for off-the clock work.

If you think you work off-the-clock without compensation, Hawks Quindel’s wage and hour attorneys will provide you with a free case evaluation to answer your questions and evaluate your potential claim. Please contact us if you would like to discuss your wages rights under federal or Wisconsin wage and hour laws. In Madison, call (800) 610-0040 or (608) 257-0040. In Milwaukee, call (800) 236-3348 or (414) 271-8650, or send us an email.