working off the clock laws

It’s all too common for employers to make their employees do unpaid “off-the-clock” work. 

Sometimes, employers will simply demand their employees work extra hours without pay or face termination. Other times, the situation is more subtle. Employees might be encouraged to work off-the-clock by co-workers because “it’s just the way we do things here.”

Yet the simple truth is that working off-the-clock is illegal in California. The state’s labor laws explicitly state that employers must compensate their employees for all work performed. This includes work that the employee completes before, during, and after their shift.

If you’ve been asked or forced to work “off the clock” in California, you should consult an employment lawyer to learn if you can get compensation. Read on to learn about the working off-the-clock laws that protect your rights. 

Is Working Off-the-Clock Illegal in California?

It is illegal for hourly employees to be working off the clock. This rule applies even to short, or de minimus, periods of off-the-clock work in California. In 2018, the California Supreme Court held in Troester v. Starbucks that an employer had to pay its hourly employees for daily off-the-clock work assignments, even though the assignments were very brief. The court’s reasoning was that short off-the-clock work assignments added up to a significant amount of lost pay over time. In 2020, the court confirmed this reasoning in another case, Frlekin v. Apple, Inc. There, the court held that the employer needed to pay its hourly employees for time spent before and after work going through mandatory security bag checks. In some cases, the security bag checks lasted just a couple of minutes. But in other cases, employees had to wait up to 45 minutes for security guards to check their bags.

Do Salaried Employees Have to Clock In?

It depends. Both California and federal labor laws classify employees as either exempt or non-exempt workers. Non-exempt employees must receive a minimum wage. They also enjoy other benefits like rest breaks, meal breaks, and overtime pay. Exempt employees do not have these benefits, and they do not have to clock in. However, exempt employees often have significantly higher pay. 

A salaried employee may or may not be an exempt employee. There are various tests that California courts apply to determine whether an employee is exempt or nonexempt. However, these tests are not straightforward and depend on many different factors. If you’re a salaried employee and you do not know whether you are exempt or non-exempt, your best move is to contact a California employment attorney

Do I Have a Lawsuit for Working Off-the-Clock?

There’s a good chance that you have a working off-the-clock lawsuit if you are an hourly employee and your employer has forced you to work off-the-clock. Specific examples of off-the-clock work include things like:

  • Answering short phone calls, texts, or emails after your shift;
  • Staying after your shift to complete paperwork;
  • Working during your lunch or break periods;  and
  • Having to come into work early to prepare your workplace for the day. 

Depending on the situation, you might be entitled to up to double your regular pay rate for off-the-clock work. 

Give Us a Call Today

If you are working off-the-clock, you may be able to obtain compensation. The first step towards defending your rights is contacting an experienced employment law firm. However, not all law firms can give you the results you want. 

Here at the Workplace Rights Law Group, we hand-pick our cases and deliver personalized service to each one of our clients. Thanks to this unique approach, we maximize our chances of winning our clients’ cases.

Take a moment to see our success yourself by reviewing our client testimonials and case results. You lose nothing by contacting us because we conduct all of our initial case reviews free of charge. So don’t wait. Contact us or give us a call at (818) 844-5200.


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