working off the clock in california

You may think working off the clock can be a great way to prove yourself as a valuable employee, but after-hours work could also create problems for you and your employer. If you’re working off the clock in California, there may be consequences, which often depend on your and your employer’s actions.

However, do not panic if you put in late-night hours without tracking your time—speak to our experienced employment attorneys first.

At Workplace Rights Law Group, we put in the extra time and care necessary to fulfill each client’s unique needs and protect their employment rights. Contact us online or call us to schedule a free case review.  

California’s Wage and Hour Laws

If you are a non-exempt employee, your employer must pay you at least minimum wage for all the time that you work. The default minimum wage in California is currently $16 per hour, but it can be up to $19.08 per hour, depending on where you live.

If you are a non-exempt employee who works more than 8 hours a day, more than 40 hours a week, or more than 6 consecutive days in a week, you must be paid overtime for the excess working time. Overtime premiums are 1.5 or 2 times your regular rate of pay. 

Employees also have the right to breaks during shifts that last longer than four hours. Under California’s break laws, an employee must receive the following:

  • A paid 10-minute break for every four hours they work; 
  • An unpaid 30-minute meal break for a shift that lasts longer than 5 hours; and
  • A second, unpaid 30-minute meal break when a shift lasts longer than 12 hours.

Please note that your employer must relieve you of all your duties and allow you to leave the worksite on your unpaid 30-minute meal break. If you must stay at work or perform work duties while on your meal break, your employer must pay you for that time. 

What Is Compensable Time?

Should you be paid only for performing duties within your job description or more? The short answer to this question is more. Under the law, compensable work is “all time the employee is suffered or permitted to work, whether or not required to do so.” This means your compensable time could include: 

  • Reporting time (even if your employer sends you home right after you arrive at the job site),
  • Time spent on standby for your employer,
  • Travel time when you must travel far beyond your regular worksite for work or training, and
  • Time spent putting on or taking off protective gear or taking diagnostic tests if they are necessary for your line of work. 

Your labor and time are valuable. So, when you are not free to pursue your interests because of your employer’s needs, you should be paid for your time. 

Examples of Working off the Clock

There are many obvious and subtle ways you could be working off the clock at your job. Off-the-clock work could include the following:

  • Reading and responding to work emails or fulfilling other job obligations during your lunch break, 
  • Not reporting the time it takes you to take necessary diagnostic tests or put on or take off protective gear at the beginning and end of your shift,
  • Completing job tasks after you have clocked out of your eight-hour shift, 
  • Failing to report all of your travel time when you are required to travel for work, 
  • Running an errand for your employer on your way home or on your way to work and not reporting your time,
  • Taking work home for the weekend to meet a deadline but not tracking or reporting your weekend work, or
  • Helping your work team pack up a venue or complete a final task after you have clocked out.  

The above list is a snapshot of how several employees might engage in off-the-clock work to prove themselves or get through their workload—this list is not exhaustive. If you believe you have been working off the clock and want to know about your rights and the associated risks, please contact us for legal guidance. 

Remedies Available

As noted above, you must be properly compensated for any work you perform, regardless of whether it was authorized. To claim this compensation, you can file a wage claim with the California Labor Commissioner’s Office.

In your claim, you can recover the compensation your employer owes you, and you might be entitled to penalty payments from your boss. 

Can You Be Fired for Working off the Clock?

Yes. You must receive payment for the time you work, even if that time was not authorized. However, your employer can penalize you for performing unauthorized work, and the penalty could include termination. Job termination for conducting unauthorized off-the-clock work is legal unless you can prove the following:

  • Your termination violated an employment agreement between you and your employer,
  • Your termination was discriminatory, or
  • Your termination was retaliatory. 

Speak to us immediately if you have lost your job for working off the clock and want to know your rights and options. 

Workplace Rights Law Group Can Protect Your Livelihood

At Workplace Rights Law Group, our experienced law team understands how important your work is, and we seek to champion the rights of every employee in California.

We exclusively represent aggrieved employees now, but we have represented employers in the past, so we know how to level the playing field between you and your boss in a workplace dispute. 

We give our clients individualized attention to address their unique needs and bring our award-winning advocacy to each case. Do not hesitate to contact us if you are facing problems at work or need advice about protecting your professional life. You can contact us online or call us to schedule a free case review.  

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