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What qualifies as working off the clock?

Has your employer ever required you to do work after you had already “clocked out” for the day? While some employers can require employees to work late, these workers have a right to receive compensation for their time. Working without pay is illegal under the FLSA and workers may be able to recover back pay if they were forced to work off the clock. We will go over what qualifies as working off the clock and what protections workers receive as part of the FLSA.

Here are a few activities that the FLSA prohibits:

  • Unpaid preparation: Your job cannot legally require you to arrive early to do preparatory work without pay. Commonly overlooked pre-work activities include food preparation for a restaurant or setting up construction site tools.
  • Unpaid end of day/after-work tasks: Nonexempt employees who are required to work after the end of a scheduled shift must receive pay for their time and may qualify for time and a half if they worked over 40 hours in a week. This after shift work can include responding to work-related emails and assisting customers after closing.
  • Unpaid administrative tasks: Workers may sometimes be required to complete administrative tasks, such as filling out paperwork or meeting with management. Employees must receive payment for their time spent completing these tasks.
  • Unpaid time for changing (doffing/donning) into a uniform: If your job requires you to change into a uniform or protective gear before work, you should receive payment for the time required to pick up and return the gear. Common work-related clothes include hairnets, metatarsal boots and hard hats.

While the FLSA grants many rights and protections to workers, it does not apply to all businesses or workers. Employees who are exempt from the FLSA include salaried executives, some sales professionals and farm workers.

What can workers do if they believe they have a wage and hour claim?

If you were required to work off the clock then you may be able to file a claim with the Department of Labor to recover pay for up to three years after the event. These cases can be complex and employers may try to fight back against your claim. You may want to contact an employment law attorney who can guide you through filing your claim. A knowledgeable lawyer can review your case details and can give you a realistic idea of what you can expect from your filing.