How To Prevent Employees From Working Off The Clock

An employer might face negligence issues due to employees working off the clock. To avoid liabilities for employees working off-the-clock work by staff, employers should regulate task times, breaks and lunches strictly. Therefore, it is important to understand how to prevent employees from working off the clock. 

A misunderstanding among some managers that employees are required to work off-the-clock can lead to considering extra work being fine. This can result in back-pay being requested by an employee for working uncompensated, including liquidated damages compensation. Mindful employers should certainly take the off-the-clock work situation under control and prevent any unpaid work from taking place.

A strict work process program can be implemented by employers, taking steps to regulate off-the-clock unconsented work according to FLSA rule; by monitoring work activities, constructing written training policies, and advising supervisors and managers about off-the-clock work. Employer’s guidelines should be clear and explicit examples should be provided regarding what accounts for “off-the-clock” violations in the workplace to avoid misconceptions. Supervisors and managers can be educated about the concepts of off-the-clock work by wage and hour law trainings. This will also enlighten them about their responsibilities to their employees and employer under wage laws prescribed by the state and federal government.

To control overtime work, employers have realized that employee access to technology must be restricted. One main way to restrict overtime work is to shift control. Employees should have to clock in during hours of work. Working through lunch breaks and changing shift times are usual means of working off-the-clock. Off-the-clock work mistakes can be reduced by informing the employees of lunch and break times. Recommendations for best practices at the workplace under FLSA are to limit access to technology, training supervisors, and taking charge to make sure that employees are working at proper timings as mentioned in the policies.

The definition of ‘work’ is not provided by FLSA, but the term normally includes the time when an employee is performing under the control or direction of the employer or is performing tasks mainly for the employer’s benefit. Activities like answering emails, attending training sessions, time spent travelling can be provided by the employer.

Employees working late could easily be recognized by the employer because they have to stay on premises to work. The access to smartphones, laptops and other devices allows for the office to be carried around in the pockets of employees. Emails or phones messages can be checked, work can be done in the evenings, weekends, as well as during vacation. Employees are expected to work or at least be accessible after work hours.

Overtime being exempted for employees is not a problem as the same amount of pay is received weekly, but for employees that are entitled to overtime irrespective of total hours of work, any work done must be accounted for and paid. When availability after work hours is expected, the accountability for unpaid hours rises because the employer should know that work was being done.

If overtime work expectations are not communicated by the employer, the impression given by supervisors suggests that it is expected. In challenging economic times, it may be believed by the employees that work done after hours is an unspoken expectation, particularly if the employer is not able to discourage them from it. Employees can be disciplined for unofficial overtime, even if they are working after hours voluntarily they should know that the work time must be recorded and failing to do so will not help the company.

Brad Nakase, Attorney

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