Many companies fail to pay employees for all the time they spend performing work-related activities. Some companies, for example, alter payroll or timekeeping records at the end of the pay period. Other companies fail to pay employees for time spent performing work activities before or after their paid shift, for time spent gathering and donning safety or sanitary gear, for time spent attending pre-shift meetings, and for time spent traveling between the shop and the job site and traveling between clients. The above conduct is illegal. Employees are entitled to be paid for all time spent performing work-related activities, even if the activities are “voluntary.”
Applying Rounding Rules That Shortchange Employees
Some companies who use a time clock or other employee punch-in or sign-in system consistently round employees’ start and end times down to the nearest half or quarter hour. Such rounding practices often are illegal.
Some companies pay employees a salary (instead of an hourly wage) and then tell the employee that he or she is not entitled to overtime because he or she has an “exempt” job title. This often is illegal. In fact, many salaried employees are entitled to overtime pay. Whether a salaried employee is entitled to overtime depends on his/her actual job duties, not on the job title provided by the company.
Misclassifying Employees As Exempt Motor Carriers
Some companies contend that employees who drive vehicles as part of their job duties are to entitled to overtime pay under the “motor carrier” exemption to federal and state overtime laws. However, employees who drive small vehicles such as automobiles, vans, or pick-up trucks generally are entitled to overtime pay. In addition, drivers who transport passengers exclusively within state lines are entitled to overtime pay.
Allowing Work During Meal Breaks
Some companies allow employees to perform work during meal breaks or require employees to be on-duty during the meal break. This can be illegal, even if the work is “voluntary.” In addition, employees required to be “on-call” throughout their meal break generally are entitled to be paid.
Some companies refuse to pay employees overtime by calling them “independent contractors” instead of “employees.” But whether an employee truly is an independent contractor depends on the actual circumstances of his employment. An employee is not an independent contractor just because the company says so.
Employees who work over 40 hours generally are entitled to overtime pay equaling one-and-one-half times their regular pay-rate. Many employees, however, receive commissions or shift differential payments in addition to their hourly pay. In calculating the time-and-one-half overtime premium, most commissions or shift differential payments must be included in the employee’s regular pay rate, and the employee’s overtime premium must be calculated based on this enhanced regular pay rate.
Averaging Long and Short Workweeks
Employees generally are entitled to “time-and-one-half” overtime pay for all hours worked over in 40 in a single workweek, which is defined as a period of seven consecutive days. Companies generally cannot avoid paying overtime by averaging a “long” workweek with a “short” workweek. For example, if an employee works 48 hours in one workweek and only 32 hours in the next workweek, she usually is entitled to 8 hours of overtime pay for the first workweek. It does not matter that the first 48-hour week and the second 32-hour week “average out” to two 40-hour weeks.
Most hourly employees not employed by the government are entitled to a monetary payment for overtime work. This overtime pay must be calculated at 150% of the employee’s regular rate of pay. It generally is illegal for private sector employers to pay non-monetary “compensatory time” (or “comp time”) benefits instead of money.