In what can only be described as the height of hypocrisy, the Department of Labor (“DOL”) – the cabinet-level agency tasked with protecting workers’ rights – settled a lawsuit with its employees who regularly performed work off-the-clock.
The amount? $7 million dollars.
Essentially, the DOL paid millions of dollars to its own employees who claimed that it had violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) – the federal wage-and-hour law that the DOL itself is tasked with enforcing.
We often hear of private employees committing these types of wage violations, but this case tells us that government employees may also experience the same abuses. Even the DOL recognizes the overtime payment rights of government employees on its website: “The FLSA establishes minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and youth employment standards affecting employees in the private sector and in Federal, State, and local governments.”
It is illegal – and damages are due – for employees required to perform required tasks before they clock in, during uncompensated meal breaks, or after they clock out for the day. Even work that is done at home or in another location outside the office before or after regular working hours should be counted as time worked. This work also may include tasks performed on smartphones, tablets, laptops and other electronic devices.
Putting aside the hypocrisy of having to settle its own off-the-clock claims, the DOL also has noted:
“‘Off the clock’ hours are all too common for the American worker. This practice harms workers, denies them the wages they have rightfully earned and takes away time with families,” said Susana Blanco, district director for the division in San Francisco. “We urge all employers, large and small, to review their pay practices to ensure employees know their basic workplace rights and that the commitment to compliance works through all levels of the organization.”
The bottom line? As a government employee, you DO have rights that your employer is required to respect, and you are entitled to be paid for ALL hours worked. If you are a government employee and believe that your employer has violated your FLSA rights, contact us at the Shavitz Law Group.