Off-the-clock work is a common issue that often is the basis for class action wage claims.  Put simply, federal and state laws require that workers get paid for the time they “work.”  Generally, hours worked includes all time an employee must be on duty, or on the employer’s premises or at any other prescribed place of work.  Also included is any additional time the employee is allowed (i.e., suffered or permitted) to work.  “Suffer or permit to work” means that if an employer requires or allows employees to work, the time spent is generally hours worked.

Time spent doing work not requested by the employer, but still allowed, is generally hours worked, since the employer knows or has reason to believe that the employees are continuing to work and the employer is benefiting from the work being done.  This time is commonly referred to as “off-the-clock work” and is prohibited …AKA illegal.

Unfortunately, off-the-clock work is not uncommon.  Earlier this week, a California court approved an employer’s agreement to pay $1.5 million to settle claims that it forced a class of 15,000 employees to do off-the-clock work at dozens of its supermarkets.

The class suits alleged that the stores forced employees to work off the clock, failed to pay them on wages worked and failed to provide state-mandated rest and meal breaks.  These issues are too, not uncommon.  Employers must have proper policies in place where employees are clocking-in prior to performing any “work.”  Employers must also ensure that they are providing state-mandated rest and meal breaks.

The California Cases are Jose Chavez v. Vallarta Food Enterprises Inc. and Gabriela Garcia v. Vallarta Food Enterprises Inc. et al., case numbers BC490630 and BC490873 in the Superior Court of the State of California for the County of Los Angeles.