This applies to those who are paid by the hour or should be classified as “non-exempt”, a legal term designating whether employees are eligible to receive overtime pay when working more than 40 hours in a week.
All employees should realize the popular saying “time is money.” Ten minutes here and fifteen minutes there will add up, especially day after day and week after week. Employees working “off the clock” just 12 minutes a day can lose an hour’s pay per week or up to 52 hours pay per year. The hours add up and all employees deserve to be paid for all of their time worked.
Many people’s first impressions of “off the clock work” is work that consists of working away from the office or work completed outside of their “punch times” (the typical start and stop times employers’ timekeeping instruments record). However, “off the clock” work can take place in many different ways, some which may even surprise you.
Faulty Time-Keeping Systems
Most employees assume that their work time is being accurately recorded by their employers. Some are asked to utilize an old-fashioned time clock or time sheet. Others are tracked automatically by computers, phone systems, GPS, or other systems that track the time worked on an instrument that an employee uses to work.
Employees whose time is tracked by their work station usually are accustomed to simply starting their work and assuming that their time is being tracked properly by their computers. However, a number of issues can cause the employer to ignore time that the employees are working. These include:
- Pre-Login – Many computer time tracking software programs only start once an employee has logged into the employer’s computer network. What happens when an employee might start the day at a meeting, training session, or reviewing company materials or before turning on their computer? Many companies just accept “the word of the computer” when considering when employees start their work day. Also, some computers can be very slow to turn on and log in, particularly those that are old and/or filled with software that slow the machine down. Some employees have been known to wait 10 minutes for their computers to login after they have hit the computer’s power button. Computers are not perfect, and the accuracy of employees’ work times can be affected significantly.
- Lunch – Many employees log out (or their computers “time out”) when they go to lunch. Some employers ask their employees to read memos or review training materials when they are away from their computers. The computers have not considered this as time worked, but the employees are not enjoying uninterrupted meal breaks. Again, the computer only knows what it is programmed to know. Therefore, the employees who work during their lunch away from their computers (or even at their computers) have computers that think they are “out to lunch.”
- Post-Logout – Just like when computers can delay booting and logging in, those same computers can often cause delay when shutting down. The first program to close often is the time tracking software, but sometimes the operating system can take several minutes or more to shut down. Some employees also may be required to do certain “small tasks” on their way out of the workplace. We’ve met employees who were required to deliver materials and wait for fellow employees before they could leave the workplace. In all examples here, the computers timekeeping software is off and their employers are not counting what employees are doing as time “worked.”
- For those who work at home on occasion, their computers are asleep, of course. Time is not being recorded by their employer. If an employer is benefiting from this work outside the workplace, it usually means that the employer should be paying for the time that those employees are working – regardless of where they are located.
While there is a perception that computers do not make mistakes, computers are only as accurate as how they are designed. Many employers decide to define “work” as starting and ending when the computer is logged on or off. However, the real question is when are employees actually starting and stopping their work each day? Every minute counts!