Hourly workers generally have the right to demand compensation for any time committed to their jobs. Workers deserve the promised pay they negotiated when they perform their job as expected by their employer, and they should receive full pay for all of the time that they were at work performing job functions.
The companies that employ hourly workers are often eager to minimize how much they spend on staffing costs. Strategic staff plans and anti-overtime rules play a part in keeping costs low, but some businesses cross the line and violate workers’ rights by making them work without compensation. These businesses may count on a federal rule when trying to steamroll over the rights of their workers, but the rule about unpaid work is different in California than it is in most of the rest of the country.
How does the federal government handle off-the-clock work?
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employers generally need to accurately record when their staff members are at work and compensate them fully for those hours. However, there are some exceptions. Employers can sometimes abuse these so-called de minimis rule by training staff members to do certain jobs before and after each shift. The de minimus rule is essentially a form of protection for employers that says they don’t have to compensate someone for the time worked when it is a very small amount of time, such as just a few minutes, or when there are minuscule discrepancies between time worked and pay received.
Thankfully, California has a different approach. Employees have taken companies to court and won claims for unpaid wages because of work tasks that may have fallen under the de minimis rule in other states. Any routine job responsibility that employers expect workers to perform should contribute to their total time worked and result in compensation.
Asking workers to clean or do other basic tasks before or after their shifts is an abuse of the hourly wage system and may potentially lead to a successful wage claim in California even though it would not in every other state. Learning about the ways that California wage and hour laws and key state court rulings deviate from federal rules may benefit workers who believe their employers have not properly compensated them for their time worked.