Office workers in a building

Is It Illegal to Work “Off the Clock”?

Whether you’re responding to emails on the weekend, staying late to help with a project, or going into the office before your day begins, you may be working off the clock without even knowing it.

Most employees are entitled to receive compensation for any work done for their employer. However, some employers take advantage of their employees and fail to pay them what they’re owed.

If you’ve been working off the clock and wish to seek compensation, an employment attorney can provide guidance. 

What does working “off the clock” mean?

When you’re working “off the clock,” it means you’re doing work that isn’t compensated and doesn’t count toward your overtime pay.

It is generally illegal to work off the clock. You should always be compensated for the work you do for your employer. 

Examples of Working Off the Clock

You may not even realize that what you’re doing is considered off-the-clock work. 

Some of the most common examples of off-the-clock work include:

  • Preparing for Work: Anything done before business hours or the beginning of your shift
  • Additional Work After You’re Done: Work tasks done after your shift is done
  • Rework: Fixing or redoing a task or project after your workday is done
  • Administrative Tasks: Reading and responding to emails, answering or returning phone calls, paperwork
  • Working During Breaks: Working during lunch or another type of break approved by your employer

If any of the above are required, done during your own time, and not paid for by your employer, this is illegal. Never perform work tasks without pay. 

The Fair Labor Standards Act and Off-the-Clock Work

Employees are afforded protections by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The act provides certain requirements regarding minimum wage, overtime, and other types of legal protections. 

While the FLSA covers most employees, there are some exemptions, including executive and administrative employees. These employees are typically paid on a salary, meaning they have set pay and do not get paid hourly. Commission-based employees are also exempt.

All non-exempt employees must be paid for all hours worked under the FLSA. Employees are required to make at least minimum wage for the first 40 hours of work per week. If an employee works more than 40 hours, then the employer must pay them time and a half, meaning one and a half times their normal hourly wage.

Why You Shouldn’t Work Off the Clock

Besides the fact that working off the clock is illegal, you should also avoid it because:

  • You’re legally entitled to receive payment for any work you do for your employer
  • Your employer will likely abuse the situation
  • It can affect your coworkers
  • It can negatively impact your work/life balance

Working off the clock might seem like no big deal at first, but it is. You should never give your time away freely. The work you do is valuable and should always be compensated. 

Recovering Back Wages for Off-the-Clock Work

If you’ve come to realize you’ve been doing unpaid work off the clock and wish to recover back wages, you may have options to do so. 

To recover wages you’re owed for off-the-clock work, you can file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor. Aside from getting back wages, you may also be entitled to receive liquidated damages for your employer’s wrongdoing.

Discuss Your Situation with a New York Employment Attorney

If you’ve been working off the clock and would like to hold your employer accountable, a qualified employment attorney in New York can provide valuable assistance. 

Woods Lonergan PLLC has been helping employees since 1993. We provide our clients with the most personalized service while protecting their rights and seeking justice on their behalf. Our seasoned attorneys and staff are knowledgeable, experienced, and resourceful, helping you get the resolution you deserve. 

Contact us today to schedule a meeting with one of our qualified New York employment attorneys.