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Can my employer make me work off the clock?

The workday can bring about many tedious tasks and processes. Setting up a project at work can take hours before you are actually productive. What happens when you're expected to get the job done but aren't given enough time to do it? The boss says you can't leave until the work is complete, but you aren't allowed to earn overtime beyond 40 hours. Is that legal?

Class-action lawsuit clarifies workforce obligations

If you are an employee who is paid on an hourly basis, you are entitled to overtime wages for all hours worked after 40 hours in a seven period as defined by your employer, according to the Federal Labor Standards Act. An employer must also provide a consistent schedule that outlines the seven-day work week. 

A recent class-action lawsuit that involved 1,300 call center employees found that their employer did not pay them for time spent logging on and off the system and the beginning and end of the workday.

Do employers understand the nature of your job?

The lawsuit involving the call center employees states that employers must "understand the everyday complexities of performing each position," according to the Society of Human Resources Management. That means hourly employees should be paid for all duties related to their job while on the company premises.

If you're on the premises and asked to work, you should be paid

Let's say you are scheduled for 40 hours in a week. It's Saturday night, and you are approaching your 40 hours per week before overtime pay begins. As you are about to leave after eight hours of work that day, your boss asks you to stay for an extra 20 minutes to help sweep the floor. You tell him you are at 40 hours that week. In response, he says to clock out, then come back and finish sweeping. Should you be paid overtime for sweeping the floor in this scenario? Yes.

On a different night, let's say you reach your 40 hours per week, clock out, and then decide to have a meal with your co-worker in the break room before you leave. In this situation, you would not be paid because your activity did not extend to the duties of your job.

When hourly employees understand their rights, they can be better prepared to recognize when an employer does not comply with federal and state overtime laws.

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