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Your employer can't require you to work 'off the clock'

It's a problem that's all too common for those who work in retail or restaurant environments. Your manager approaches you, tells you to clock out and then directs you to return to work. Perhaps you're asked to do prep work for the next day, cleaning or inventory work. Whatever the task being requested of you, your employer simply has no right to demand unpaid work from anyone making an hourly wage.

Staff who make an hourly wage, regardless of their position, should always receive overtime pay for any hours they work beyond 40 in a week. More importantly, employees should be fairly compensated for their time at work, regardless of how many hours they have already worked.

If you employer asks you to work off the clock, that is a violation of your rights and employment law. Regardless of if they want to keep staff costs low or avoid necessary overtime pay, you shouldn't have to work without compensation.

Businesses often set limits to staffing hours for profit

Most retail and restaurant businesses, especially franchises and corporation-owned establishments, have carefully planned staffing hour estimates. Based on the historical sales for similar business days in the past, the company creates a plan or estimate of the number of staff required based on the potential income. Managers often receive incentives for complying with these plans by keeping staff as low as possible on any given day.

Sometimes, however, that means that there is more work than workforce on a particular day. Employers, hoping to avoid going over their estimated hours or incurring overtime costs, may ask staff members to clock out and return to work. This practice is illegal, and no employee making an hourly wage should ever have to work off the clock to protect corporate profits or managerial bonuses.

Understanding when overtime pay is due

If you are an hourly (non-salaried) worker, any time you work beyond 40 hours in a seven-day pay period requires overtime pay. Under federal law, overtime pay must be at least one and a half times your typical rate of pay.

When attempting to calculate the potential need for overtime pay, look carefully at your work week. Your employer must have a set day and time when each work week or pay period begins and ends. That period cannot simply move every week to protect against overtime wages. It should remain consistent, allowing staff to know how many hours they've worked in a given pay period.

Any work hours beyond 40 in a given 168-hour period or seven day work week should receive overtime compensation. If your employer requests that you work off the clock to avoid paying you overtime compensation, you may need to take legal action to enforce your right to a fair wage.

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