A Recent Study Found that More than 40% of Georgia Employees Do Work Off the Clock

The COVID-19 pandemic brought about many changes in the world of work, including a massive expansion of remote work. While remote work has been a boon to workers in many ways, it further blurs an already eroding line between when a worker is “on the clock” and off-the-clock time. Both employers and employees should be mindful that employees are entitled under the law to receive compensation for all the time spent working. If a non-exempt employee does off-the-clock work and doesn’t receive compensation, that may potentially represent a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Whether you are a non-exempt employee or an employer, a knowledgeable Atlanta wage and hour lawyer to discuss your situation and whether it complies with what the FLSA requires.

Remote work isn’t the only issue. The massive proliferation of high-speed internet connectivity and “smart” devices means workers can be “plugged in” to work at all hours and at any location.

Recently, a Duluth-based business researched the work employees do… and when they do it. The results were noteworthy. According to a Valdosta Today report, the study found that 40% of the nation’s workers were “working longer than their contracted hours.” Georgia is above the national average with 43% of Peach State workers reporting that they did work off the clock.

Nearly one-half of all Georgia workers reported checking their work email off the clock, 40% said they started work before their contracted start time, and 43% reported staying at work later than their contracted stop time.

When After-Hours Tasks Are Compensable

Employers should be aware that even a “brief text” or “quick email” generally is enough if it causes the employee to do work. Even if the employee does only a little work, that time is almost always considered compensable under the FLSA.

Electronic (or telephonic) communications an employee receives at home (and other forms of off-the-clock remote work) aren’t the only problems. An unpaid hours violation can occur in many different ways. If your workplace allows rest breaks and/or meal breaks, those breaks must be completely free from work. If you (or your employee) answered work emails throughout lunch but HR’s timekeeping recorded that time as a “break,” that could realistically constitute a violation of the FLSA.

Pre-Shift and Post-Shift Work

Another area where violations can occur is pre-shift and post-shift work. If, for example, a job requires workers to attend mandatory daily meetings before starting their shifts, that meeting time generally is compensable time under the law.

Another area where this commonly can occur is computer login/logout. If your workplace requires employees to engage in tasks like booting up a computer, logging into special software, logging out of that software, and shutting down the computer, that time often is compensable. If, for example, the rules of the job demand that employees be logged in and ready to do work (such as taking customer calls) at 8:00 a.m., and that they continue doing that work until 5:00 p.m., then a failure to pay workers for the time they spend before 8:00 and after 5:00 dealing with their computers may be a violation. Courts have ruled that, even if the process takes only a few minutes at the day’s start and end, those minutes are not trivial and the law demands compensation for that time.

For workers required to wear specific uniforms or specialized protective gear, the time spent “donning and doffing” this gear is often compensable under the law. (This can include a wide array of workers from uniformed associates at an auto repair shop to employees in “bunny suits” inside the “clean rooms” of pharmaceutical manufacturing plants or scientific research facilities.)

The legal rules and issues regarding unpaid hours can be complicated. Whether you are an employee with a potential unpaid hours problem or an employer seeking to ensure FLSA compliance, you need legal counsel with experience-driven information you can trust. The team of knowledgeable Atlanta wage and hour attorneys at the law firm of Parks, Chesin & Walbert can help you ensure your pay practices meet the law’s demands (or, if you’re a worker, we can help you identify if your situation represents a violation that entitles you to receive compensation.) Get started today by contacting us at 404-873-8048 or through this website to schedule a consultation.

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