Given the technological advancements over the past few decades, more and more employees are expected to be on call – either officially or unofficially – all day, every day. Most often, this occurs when an employee receives a phone call or email after they have left the office for the day. And depending on the sender of the communication, the subject, and the workplace culture, an employee may feel as though they must address the issue although they are technically off the clock.
The question frequently comes up whether an employee must be compensated for this type of work. The answer depends if the employee is exempt or non-exempt. Non-exempt employees must be paid for all the time they work, whereas exempt employees do not. If a non-exempt employee is not paid for their off-the-clock work, they can pursue an FLSA or unpaid wages claim against their employer.
An exempt employee is one who is exempt from the minimum wage and overtime requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). For an employee to be characterized as exempt, an employer must pay them a salary rather than an hourly wage. The idea being that an exempt employee is compensated for getting a job done, regardless of the time it takes. Typically, exempt positions are reserved for executive, management, and professional employees.
Non-exempt employees, on the other hand, are protected under the FLSA. These employees must be paid at or above the hourly minimum wage and must be paid 1.5 times their hourly rate for every hour worked over 40 per week. In addition, they must be paid for all the time that they are working. This includes “off the clock” work, such as answering emails late at night, early in the morning, or on the weekends. If off-the-clock work puts an employee over 40 hours per week, then the employee is entitled to receive overtime pay, equal to 1.5-times their standard hourly rate, for each hour worked over 40 hours per week. Other things may be considered working such as prep time, travel time, wait time, training, and other business events, depending on your specific circumstance.
If a supervisor of a non-exempt employee is aware that an employee is answering phone calls or emails off the clock, they should be sure the employee is compensated for this time. The same goes for employees who are asked to return to work early during a scheduled lunch or break. Willful ignorance of an employee’s off-the-clock work is no excuse. Employees who are not compensated for the work they perform can pursue an FLSA claim against the employer seeking compensation for their unpaid wages and, in some cases, liquidated damages equal to the amount of lost wages.
Has Your Employer Failed to Compensate You for Off-the-Clock Work?
If you have been working for an employer who has failed to adequately compensate you for the time you spend working while off the clock, you may be entitled to back-pay for all the wages you are owed. At the Dallas employment law firm of Rob Wiley, P.C. we represent the interests of employees in all types of employment-related claims, including employee overtime claims. To learn more about how we can help you with your situation, call 214-528-6500 to schedule a consultation.