Whether you clock in, log in or submit a time sheet, if your boss pays you by the hour, you know that minutes mean money. You may even have to wait until a certain time to clock in to avoid earning pay for the extra quarter hour. Your boss may reprimand you if you stay on the clock past your scheduled time. This is because those minutes count toward the total time you work for the week, which brings you closer to overtime pay.
Hourly pay also means you do not get credit for hours you are off the clock. A shrewd employer may find ways to get work from you without paying you, but you may also be willingly, and illegally, giving your time away.
Your boss may be stealing from you
Federal law requires employers to pay one and one-half times your regular hourly pay if you work more than 40 hours in a week. For this reason, many California employers keep their hourly workers well under the 40-hour limit. Some do this legitimately by managing their schedules. Others keep their hours low by convincing hourly employees that the work they do off the clock does not count as work time. Common examples of this include the following:
- Excluding time it takes you to drive from your office to a meet a client
- Not counting time you spend dealing with work-related phone calls and messages when you are home
- Making you take your lunch at your desk so you can answer incoming phone calls
- Forcing you to clock out if you have to correct mistakes on completed work
- Assigning prep work before you clock in or making you clock out before starting your clean-up routine
- Making you clock out during down time, such as when no customers are in the store but you may not leave
- Making you clock out to attend mandatory training or meetings during a normal work day
You may be one of those employees who generally likes the work you do and the people with whom you work. You may voluntarily stay after you have clocked out to help a coworker finish a project or clean up a station. However, if your employer knows this and allows it, he or she is in violation of the law.
It may seem like only a few minutes at a time, but those minutes add up quickly. Without realizing it, you may be missing out on overtime compensation. If your employer routinely steals your wages in this way, either by forcing you or allowing you to work off the clock, you may wish to seek legal advice about your options for reclaiming the pay you deserve.