Legal Consequences of Working off the Clock
While working off the clock is a common practice in many organizations, it can have legal consequences for both employees and employers. Employees may have trouble proving how much time they worked when there are inaccurate records of those hours. Working off the clock can also cause other problems for employees, such as reducing an employee’s social security retirement benefits because she earned less than she should have earned.
Employers may face hefty legal expenses, as it is illegal for organizations to force non-exempt employees to work off the clock. Employees of organizations that do this have the legal right to file a complaint with the government, but more typically (and more effectively), their own lawsuit against the employer under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Read on to learn more about the legal consequences both employees and employers face for working off the clock.
Exempt Employees vs. Non-Exempt Employees
The consequences of working off the clock differ depending on whether the employee is exempt or non-exempt. Exempt employees, among other requirements to be exempt, receive a set salary (not less than $684 per week or $35,568 annually) instead of being paid for the time they spend clocked in or by the quantity of the work they produce. This means that it isn’t really possible for these employees to work off the clock, as they don’t clock in to work. In practice, this means that there are no legal consequences to employers for requiring salaried employees to work outside of normal business hours or more than 40 hours per week. Doing so is completely legal.
Non-exempt employees are usually paid an hourly wage rather than a salary. The employer is legally required to keep accurate time records for non-exempt employees. These employees do clock in and out because they are paid according to how many hours they spend clocked in. It is against the law for non-exempt employees to work off the clock. However, this often happens because employers do not want to pay overtime for non-exempt employees who are already working 40 hours per week. This is illegal because non-exempt employees are legally entitled to overtime.
Legal Consequences For Employees
Employees are not the ones breaking the law if they work off the clock as the FLSA places the obligation to keep accurate time records on the employer and not the employee. This means that they will not have to face punishment from the government for doing so.
However, there are still legal consequences for employees who work off the clock and the lack of accurate time records can make it hard to determine the appropriate amount of damages to be awarded.
Other Considerations for Employees Working Off the Clock
Many companies terminate employees for working off the clock. This often happens when the employee’s immediate supervisor forces them to work off the clock, and both the supervisor and the employee get fired when upper-level management finds out. Companies do this because they may face serious legal consequences, even when upper-level management has banned the practice. Nevertheless, the employer is liable for the wages it owes the employee for doing such work.
Legal Consequences For Employers
Damages & Back Wages
Employers may be liable for back wages for the entire time that their employees worked off the clock in the past three years. If this was a regular occurrence at the company, this amount could be many tens of thousands of dollars. Also, employees may be eligible for liquidated damages in an amount equal to their back wages. This essentially doubles the amount that the company has to pay out. Further, the Court in successful FLSA cases must award the employee his reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.
Savvy workers who have been forced to work off the clock hire an attorney to represent them. While this gives them a better chance of getting the compensation they deserve, they may also incur legal fees. Fortunately, and as a matter of correct public policy, employers who are found to have violated the law by forcing employees to work unpaid time may be required to pay for their employees’ reasonable legal fees and costs.
Hire a Georgia Employment Lawyer
If you’ve been forced to work off the clock, you should hire an employment law firm to help you get the compensation you deserve. The firm of DeLong, Caldwell, Bridgers, Fitzpatrick, & Benjamin is one of the most respected and experienced employment law firms in Georgia. They have successfully represented many workers seeking compensation from their current or former employers. They can give you the legal guidance you need to navigate Georgia’s complex employment laws. Contact us today to start getting legal assistance with your case.