Can an Employer Make you Work off the Clock Unpaid in Ohio?
Oct 06, 2021
If you are asking yourself, “can my employer force me to work without pay?” or “can my employer force me to work overtime without pay?”, the answer to these questions is simply: No.
Under Ohio wage laws and federal labor laws, an employer is in violation of the law when it requires or allows an employee to work off-the-clock unpaid.
How is working off the clock illegal?
The Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) is a federal law, which governs minimum wage, overtime wages, the number of hours one can work, and other wage issues. The FLSA requires that all hourly employees be paid at least a minimum wage for all hours worked, which under federal wage laws is $7.25, and which under Ohio labor laws at the time of this article is $8.80. The FLSA, as well as Ohio wage laws, also require hourly employees to be paid overtime wages (time and one half the regular rate of pay) for any hours worked beyond 40 hours in a week.
When an employee is paid a minimum wage for 40 hours of work on the time clock that week, but then works off the clock any time over 40 hours that same week, the employer likely is violating the FLSA since the time the employee worked was past 40 hours and the employee is not receiving overtime. In addition, if the time the employee spends working off the clock reduces the employee’s wages less than minimum wage for that week, when factoring in the pay the employee received and the hours the employee worked, the employer also is violating federal and Ohio wage laws.
Common Examples of when working off the clock can be illegal
Early indicators that an employer’s practices are in violation of wage laws include the following examples. When such examples are regularly occurring in the workplace, the employee should be encouraged to call an Ohio wage attorney to determine if wage theft is occurring.
- Off the Clock work, during unpaid meal breaks:
- Performing work during an unpaid meal break
- Responding to work-related text messages during an unpaid meal break
- Answering work calls off the clock during an unpaid meal break
- Answering client questions or client calls during an unpaid meal break
- Performing work-related tasks on the computer through an unpaid work break
- Off the clock work, before clocking in to shift:
- Loading and preparing work vehicles before clocking in
- Performing “opening tasks” before clocking in
- Warming up work vehicles
- Performing maintenance on work vehicles, such as checking oil levels
- Changing into work uniforms at work, before clocking in.
- Off the clock work, after clocking out:
- Doing security checks unpaid off the clock
- Finishing tasks after work off the clock that “should have been done” during shift
- Closing out the register after clocking out
- Doing prep work for the next day after clocking out
- Cleaning the restaurant after clocking out
Is it illegal to voluntarily work off the clock?
We understand that many employees may feel loyal towards their companies and may have been made to think that working off the clock unpaid is somehow ok, or a part of the job, and do not feel comfortable making complaints for unpaid wages for off the clock work. However, wage laws are clear that hourly employees must be paid for all hours worked, even if those employees are “volunteering.” This is true regardless of whether an employer is asking the employee to work off the clock or whether the employer is just allowing the employee to work off the clock. It is still a wage violation.
What are my remedies if my employer is making me work off the clock unpaid?
You may be asking, “what do I do if I have unpaid wages for off the clock work?” Those who have concerns about not getting paid for off the clock work or have other concerns about wage violations should first consult an Ohio Wage and Hour Attorney.
While you may have concerns that reporting wage violations could interfere with your job status and cause you to lose your job, rest assured that the FLSA makes it illegal for employers to fire an employee who reports a wage violation.
We also understand that you may feel like pursuing your unpaid wages may be too expensive or that you could not afford an attorney. First, the FLSA allows all employees who have suffered the same wage violation to join together to bring one lawsuit, which can be beneficial for several reasons. Second, most notably, when an employee successfully proves that the employer violated the FLSA, such as by failing to pay for off the clock work, the employer can be required to pay your attorney fees, any court costs, your back wages (the wages that should have been paid), and an additional amount equal to the number of back wages it owes (known as “liquidated damages”).
Call our Ohio wage attorneys if you have questions about unpaid wages for off the clock work
Our Ohio wage law attorneys understand that reporting wage violations can be uncomfortable, which is why we attempt to resolve these issues without the need for litigation. However, in some scenarios, litigation may be the best (or only) available option to recover wages that an employee has earned. If you are an Ohio employee or West Virginia employee and have questions about off the clock work or unpaid wages, please call (614) 221-4035 or click here to schedule a free consultation with a trusted and respected wage and hour attorney at Brian G. Miller Co., L.P.A.