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Can New York employers require people to work off the clock?

On Behalf of | Apr 18, 2024 | Employment Law

Inflation and the constant pressure from shareholders to produce profits have forced many businesses to get creative about cost-cutting. Frequently, the workers helping run the company are the focus of cost-cutting measures.

Businesses often seek to reduce staffing costs as a way of maximizing profits. For example, companies may refuse to grant cost-of-living raises to their workers as a way of controlling expenses. They may implement policies that forbid overtime without pre-approval. They may even try to manipulate workers into doing some of their job tasks without appropriate compensation.

Companies may train workers to do certain tasks before they clock in or after they clock out. They might also ask workers to come in on their day off to help with cleaning, stocking or other maintenance tasks. Can New York employers require work performed off the clock?

The law requires compensation for time worked

Regardless of what companies try to claim, both New York and federal laws protect the right to hourly wages for time worked. Hourly workers, in particular, deserve fair compensation for all the time committed to job responsibilities. Their pay is often lower than what salaried workers receive, and they don’t always know how many hours they may work from one week to the next.

Hourly employees are, unfortunately, the workers most likely to receive training implying that they should do work without pay and pressure from their employers to do certain tasks before or after a shift. Demands for off-the-clock work may be a violation of someone’s employment rights. Some requests may fall under the de minimus rule, allowing businesses to request inconsequential amounts of unpaid work. Any regular tasks that a worker performs without pay may be a violation of their rights.

Especially when the request for unpaid labor is not a brief, one-time matter but instead a consistent expectation, workers might end up deprived of many hours of pay over the course of a year due to company policies. The only way to recoup those losses may be to file a lawsuit.

Those who have not received payment in full for the time worked at a company may have grounds for a wage and hour claim against their employers. Taking legal action can compensate workers and might also motivate companies to change their inappropriate employment policies.