Hourly workers deserve to receive fair pay for every minute they work. Unfortunately, there are many ways that companies can attempt to take advantage of their hourly workers. There are a range of schemes that businesses can employ to minimize how much they pay their workers.
One common tactic is to avoid paying overtime to staff at all costs. Overtime wages are a right of hourly workers under U.S. federal law. For almost any professional, working past the 40th hour in any given pay period should entitle them to at least one and a half times their standard hourly rate of pay.
Only salaried workers are exempt from the requirement for overtime pay. Familiarizing yourself with your rights to overtime pay can help you stand up for yourself if your employer is trying to take advantage of you.
Know when your work week starts and ends
One of the most important things you can do to ensure you receive overtime pay when appropriate is to verify when your pay period starts and ends. Many companies choose to end work weeks on Fridays or start them on Mondays.
There is no real restriction on when employers start calculating the week. However, there are rules against repeatedly changing the starting time of a pay period to avoid paying overtime to staff.
Regardless of whether your work week starts on a Monday or Wednesday, once you know that, you can accurately determine how many hours you have worked in your pay period. If that total number of hours exceeds 40, then you should receive time-and-a-half for those hours.
It is not legal to make you work off the clock to avoid overtime
At some businesses, particularly restaurants and retail establishments, managers may try to pressure staff into working without compensation. When an employee reaches their 40th hour, the manager might ask that they clock out and then continue working.
Another way companies engage in the same practice is to have staff clock out and then continue working for 10 or 15 minutes after every shift. Demanding unpaid prep work or cleaning after a shift is illegal and likely a violation of your rights as a worker.
Keep an eye on your time clock records
Some companies or managers will go to extreme lengths to avoid overtime payments to staff. Those efforts could include manipulating records for when employees clock in and out to reduce the total amount of time they work and avoid overtime obligations. If you notice a discrepancy between the records of when you worked versus what you receive in pay, that could be an indicator of a serious issue.
Any system intended to deprive staff of the wages that they deserve for the hours that they work violates the law. If your employer is engaging in these kinds of practices, you may need to take legal action to stand up for yourself and your co-workers.
Talking with an experienced employment law attorney can be a first step toward determining whether you have a valid work and wages claim against your employer related to unpaid overtime.