Employers are always looking for ways to cut costs, and are never short on creative ways to do so. While they have the right to save money, they have to obey the law. Unfortunately, many New York businesses are unfamiliar with federal and state wage and hour laws. In particular, they don’t understand that asking hourly employees to work off the clock is almost always illegal.
The New York business lawyers of Rosenbaum & Taylor examine this issue.
You Can’t Ask Employees to Work Off the Clock Without Pay
An employer cannot ask or require an employee to work without fair pay. Employees have to be compensated for their labor. So-called “off-the-clock” work can take a number of forms, such as:
- Asking an employee to work before clocking in or out for the day
- Not paying an employee for work-related travel time
- Requiring an employee to attend work meetings without pay
- Automatic meal break deductions while the employee is on call or actually working
- Telling an employee to not bill for time spent on specific work duties.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and New York laws require employees to be paid for their work. Employers must also keep accurate time records regarding their employees. Asking or requiring hourly employees to not log time for actual work functions is illegal. It’s also against the law to manipulate time cards or other work records to cheat employees out of their pay.
Cheating an employee out of their hours may also cheat them out of overtime pay. In general, New York businesses must pay hourly employees overtime for all hours worked over 40 during a week. Overtime must be paid at the rate of 1.5 times the employee’s regular hourly pay.
How to Avoid a Wage and Hour Lawsuit
A New York business law attorney can explain more in detail about your obligations under state and federal law. But, in general, your business must follow all applicable wage and hour rules. If you fail to do so, you could be headed for legal trouble.
Here are some tips for avoiding a wage and hour lawsuit.
Draft and use an employee handbook.
Your employees’ job duties should be clearly defined and explained in sufficient detail. This way, an employee is less likely to perform non-work duties and then try to get paid for them. Our law firm can help you draft or amend an employee handbook for your organization.
Don’t allow access to the work site without your permission.
If an employee does work without the employer’s permission, the employer doesn’t have to pay, right? Wrong. The employer can be required to pay, even for unauthorized work, if it derives a benefit from said work.
To avoid this problem, don’t allow access to a job site without your permission. If the work is done online, don’t permit online access. In other words, you should take affirmative steps to prevent unauthorized work.
Don’t deduct for lunch breaks without relieving the employee of work duties.
This is one particular area where many New York businesses get in trouble. An employee must actually be relieved of work duties during an unpaid lunch break. Keeping the employee “on call” does not meet this standard. Only deduct time for a meal break that really is a break for the worker.
Our New York Business Lawyers Can Advise and Defend You
There are other steps your business can take to reduce the likelihood of a wage and hour lawsuit. Rosenbaum & Taylor is here to advise your organization. We are also available to defend your business if it does get sued. Call us today to learn more.