Illegal Off-the-Clock Work: Lawsuits for Unpaid Wages
Last Updated on March 23, 2021
At A Glance
- This Alert Affects:
- Anyone who's not getting paid for their off-the-clock work.
- What's Going On?
- A number of lawsuits have been filed on behalf of employees who didn't get paid for their off-the-clock work. Making or allowing hourly employees to work off the clock without pay is illegal.
- What You Can Do:
- Fill out the form on this page and tell us what happened. One of the attorneys we work with may then call or e-mail you to explain more about your rights and to help determine whether you can make a claim for unpaid wages.
- Can I Get Fired?
- It's illegal for your employer to terminate, demote or otherwise retaliate against you for exercising your legal rights.
- How Much Does this Cost?
- It doesn't cost anything to talk to a lawyer and learn more about your rights. Plus, you're not obligated to take legal action if you don't want to.
A number of lawsuits have been filed on behalf of employees who worked off the clock – and didn’t get paid for it.
Generally, under wage and hour law, all time spent working must be paid, even if that work is being performed before an employee’s shift starts or after it ends. Many of these lawsuits have resulted in multi-million dollar payouts, including a $352 million settlement against Walmart to resolve allegations that the retailer required employees to work off the clock and through meal breaks.
Is It Illegal to Make Hourly Employees Work Off the Clock?
If you’re working outside your shift and not getting paid for it, then yes, it is generally illegal for your employer to allow or require you to work off the clock. Under federal labor law, all hours worked – regardless of whether an employee is “clocked in” or not – must be paid.
Labor Laws About Off-the-Clock Work
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is the federal law that covers overtime and minimum wages. Under the FLSA, the term “employ” means to “suffer or permit to work.” This means that if an employee is required or allowed to work, he or she must be compensated for this time.
In essence, an employee’s workday begins when he or she starts his or her first job-related task and ends when he or she completes his or her last work-related task of the day. Unfortunately, some employees are performing job-related tasks “off the clock” and not getting paid for them. Common off-the-clock tasks that should generally be compensated include:
- “Re-doing” Work:
- This includes instances in which an employee is asked to redo an assignment during off hours without pay.
- Administrative Work:
- This can include off-the-clock training sessions or completing paperwork before or after a shift begins.
- Waiting for Work:
- This occurs when an employee is asked – or allowed to wait – for an assignment. This time, in general, must be paid.
Other instances of “off-the-clock” work can include:
- Changing into uniforms and putting on safety equipment (“donning and doffing”)
- Loading or warming up a work vehicle
- Booting up computers
- Going through safety checks
- Working through lunch breaks
- Pre- or post-shift meetings
- Finishing work that “should have been finished” during the shift
- Cleaning up or preparing/setting up (for instance, in a restaurant)
- Dropping off equipment after a shift
Furthermore, you cannot “volunteer” to work off the clock. Volunteer work is only permissible in non-profit settings. Employers have even gotten in trouble for having employees perform work as unpaid “volunteers.”
Have These Lawsuits Been Successful?
Yes. Over the past several years, a number of employees have sued their employers and recovered millions of dollars in damages.
These results include:
A $350 million settlement against Walmart to resolve 60-plus lawsuits that claimed the company forced its employees to work off the clock
$6 million settlement against TD Bank for allegedly requiring employees to arrive early and open the bank before their shifts began
$2.5 million settlement against Hilton LAX for failing to pay hotel workers for putting on and taking off their uniforms
The Department of Labor (DOL) has also settled a number of claims with big name companies, including Shell Oil and Farmers’ Insurance, for failing to compensate employees for pre-shift activities, such as meetings. Many of these settlements totaled $1 million or more. Keep in mind, however, that each case and its outcome will be different.
Off-the-Clock Work Without Wages? Here’s What You Can Do
If your boss is making – or letting you – work off the clock without pay, fill out the form on this page and tell us about it. One of the attorneys we work with may then reach out to you directly to explain why it may be illegal and how you could recover compensation for your unpaid wages.
It doesn’t cost anything to talk to the attorneys we work with and you’re not obligated to take legal action after learning more about your rights. Plus, it’s illegal under federal law to retaliate against employees for reporting potential workplace violations or exploring their legal options.
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