‘Enter Username and Password’: When the Minutes You Spend Prepping for Your Shift May Be Countable Time for Calculating Your Overtime Pay

Lots of workers know the drill. Officially, your workday begins at 8:00 am or 9:00 am or whenever, but it doesn’t really begin at that time. “Eight o’clock” means you have to be ready to take calls or manufacture items or enter data into a computer at 8:00, which means that your workday actually begins at 7:50 or 7:45 or 7:whatever, when you have to be at your workstation and get started prepping for the tasks that must start at the top of the hour. What you may not know, however, is that those minutes prepping may potentially count in calculating overtime pay and in determining whether your pay meets the minimum wage. If your employer isn’t counting this time, it is possible your employer is shortchanging you in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Get in touch with an Atlanta minimum wage and overtime lawyer to find out more.

The law says that certain forms of preparation are things that must be counted when calculating your total hours worked. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, employers’ failure “to count and properly pay for pre-shift work is a common violation” of the FLSA and other related federal laws.

A recent example of this kind of FLSA violation involved a company based in neighboring Florida that the Labor Department cited for violating the law, affecting dozens of workers, the Miami Herald reported.

The employer, based in Tampa, Florida, provided technology products and services. The affected employees were ones who, according to the Labor Department, the employer “failed to pay… for time spent setting up their computers and logging in to software applications before the start of their shifts.” In all, the illegal pay procedure affected more than 90 employees and amounted to a grand total of more than $105,000 in illegally unpaid overtime wages.

The time involved in completing these kinds of preparatory tasks might seem trivial but, as this case demonstrates and as the Labor Department explicitly pointed out, “these unpaid minutes add up.”

This Kind of Violation Can Occur in a Multitude of Settings

Jobs that require employees to boot up computers and log into software platforms are one clear example of jobs where your pre-shift work may be compensable. If you work in a job that requires you to put on lots of protective clothing before you enter the workspace or if you work in a “cleanroom” lab or manufacturing facility that requires you to put on special garments and coverings, then the time you spend putting on these items also may be compensable time. A worker whose job involves the use of manufacturing tools like lathes and requires pre- (and post-)production work like oiling the tool potentially represents yet another example.

Furthermore, there’s a newer thing that you should keep in mind: COVID-19 screenings. Many employers now require employees to undergo pre-shift coronavirus screenings before entering the work area. If the process of submitting to those screenings takes more than just a very few minutes, then that time may be compensable.

The law says that, when determining whether or not a pre-shift or post-shift task is compensable, one needs to look at a few things. The tasks must be: related to the “principal activities” of your job, “integral and indispensable” to the completion of your work, and must take more than a minimal amount of time.

What is integral? What is principal? What is minimal? The answers to these questions may hinge upon the specific facts of your case, so be sure you’re getting customized advice specific to your circumstance and based on in-depth legal knowledge and experience. Count on the Atlanta unpaid overtime attorneys at the law firm of Parks, Chesin & Walbert for reliable advice and zealous advocacy. We’ve helped countless workers facing challenges like yours, and we’re equipped and ready to help you. Contact us through this website or at 404-873-8048 to schedule a consultation today.

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