Employees in New Jersey are afforded certain legal protections under both federal and state laws. Among these protections is a requirement that employers pay employees for work that is performed, which effectively means that employers are prohibited from allowing, or requiring, employees to work off the clock. Whether the work involved arriving early to set up for a meeting, staying late to clean at a restaurant or other establishment, reviewing someone else’s work after hours, or redoing an assignment that was already completed, the law is very clear that employees must be paid for the work they perform.
One of the major reasons for the prohibition against off-the-clock work is the general principle that a person should be paid for the work they perform. Although most people agree with this in theory, the reality is that many businesses will try to take advantage of any opportunity to cut costs and get free labor. The need for statutory protections in this area of law arises precisely because some bosses will place pressure on employees to keep working even after they are off the clock and no longer being paid for their time. In these situations, the employee may be “volunteering” to do the off-the-clock work, but they are not really exercising their free will.
In fact, the US Department of Labor specifically references the possibility of employees being pressured to work off the clock by stipulating that employees must be compensated with fair wages for any time they are “allowed, suffered, or permitted” to work. Work that is “suffered” is any task that the employee performs even when the task was not explicitly requested by the employer. Federal law makes no distinction between off-the-clock work that is voluntarily performed by the employee and off-the-clock work that is demanded by the employer.
The law barring off-the-clock work is also meant to protect employers against liability in the event that an employee voluntarily performs work after hours and is involved in an accident or otherwise sustains a serious injury while doing the unpaid task.
FLSA Protects New Jersey Workers
The federal law that protect workers against being required, or pressured, to work off the clock is the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Under the FLSA, businesses must pay employees for all hours worked. Moreover, federal labor law dictates that an employee’s work day doesn’t begin or end at certain times; it begins when the employee starts their first work-related task and ends when they finish the performance of their last work-related task. This means that any work done before or after your shift constitutes off-the-clock work and requires appropriate compensation from the employer.
The FLSA also requires that employees, excluding employees who are exempted from coverage by the federal statute, be paid at least the minimum wage for hours worked. Moreover, the FLSA states that covered employees must receive at least one and one-half times their regular rates of pay for overtime work or work that goes beyond 40 hours in a single week.
If your rights were violated in the workplace, you need a qualified employment law attorney on your side. The experienced employment law attorneys at Rudnick, Addonizio, Pappa & Casazza PC can help protect your legal rights. Contact us anytime to schedule a free initial consultation.