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When to compensate workers for sending emails

According to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), California workers and others who send emails or take phone calls after hours must generally be paid for the time worked. This is true even if the employer prohibits the performing of those or similar tasks during evenings or weekends. As long as the employer has a constructive knowledge of the work being done, workers must be compensated for those tasks.

However, the Seventh Circuit ruled in favor of the Chicago Police Department in a lawsuit brought forward by the department's Bureau of Organized Crime. The suit claimed that employees did work on BlackBerry devices given to them by the city. It also said that an unwritten policy resulted in workers not submitting requests for overtime pay despite the existence of a sufficient way to do so. Furthermore, the suit claimed that the city knew about work being done after hours and asked the court to impute constructive knowledge to the city.

The court ruled that the city did not require a specific reason as to why someone was asking for overtime pay. Therefore, it found that the policy did not have a chilling effect on an officer's ability to do so. Furthermore, an inability to check hour sheets to verify that work had been done meant that there was no actual or constructive knowledge about the overtime hours that were worked.

A failure to compensate employees for work done after the end of their shift is generally a violation of the FLSA. Employees may be entitled to that overtime pay as well as other damages in a lawsuit. In some cases, a resolution may be reached outside of court. An attorney may help those who believe that that they have a valid wage claim in either settlement talks or a trial.

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