My coworker is working off the clock

Dear Evil HR Lady,

I have a coworker who’s considerably senior to me. He has a habit of coming in well before he’s scheduled to start and starting to work, but not punching in until his actual time. I know this is definitely illegal, and could open our business to some really expensive lawsuits, but I also know that my immediate supervisor definitely is aware of what he does. I’m not sure that whether our general manager does (he’s pretty new). We’re a pretty small hotel, so the GM is someone I see 3-5 days a week.

Should I bring this up to my general manager or should I consider it ‘not my business’? If I should bring it up, do you have any suggestions for how to bring it up in a way that doesn’t make it seem like I’m tale-bearing?

To read the answer click here: My coworker is working off the clock

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8 thoughts on “My coworker is working off the clock

  1. I use to always come in 15 minutes early to do stuff like go to the bathroom and put my lunch away. I never actually started work (taking phone calls) until my start time. I suppose those around me might have thought I was working 15 minutes off the clock but I really wasn’t. Perhaps that’s why when I left my job the replacement was hired at 25 hours a week and not the 20 hours a week I worked. There wasn’t enough work for the 20 hours I worked either.

  2. Why is this a problem? We all have our own motivators in life. If management was forcing someone to work “off the clock” then yes, definitely illegal – but how is this any different then the teacher who spends extra time decorating his classroom or the doctor who reviews her patient’s charts on a Sunday morning?

    1. Labor laws in some states and at the Federal level are written assuming that we working adults must be protected from ourselves and our possibly bad decisions about our own welfare and how we manage our careers. Therefore, there are strong and punitive measures against employers and managers to ensure that non-exempt employees be paid, at overtime rates if necessary, for the time they work.

      Teachers and doctors are most often exempt employees. Legally, they have the flexibility to work more hours for which they receive no compensation.

      1. It’s not even the states–it’s federal. Unless your position is exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act (that’s what “exempt” means, that you’re exempt from that law) you have to get paid for every hour you work.

        Some states have greater protections–higher minimum wages at which you must get paid, things like that–but they all have to meet at least the basic FLSA standard, and if an employer is in breach, it could mean quite a costly fine.

  3. It’s not really ourselves, but employers from which that law is intended to protect. If hourly employers were permitted to work off the clock by their own choice, does anyone really believe that any number of companies wouldn’t “encourage” employees to do off-the-clock work “by choice”? Because if you do, you’re more optimistic than I am…

    1. Despite the law it still happens on a fairly regular basis in jobs that tend to be filled by people who do not know the law or so desperately need a job, any job, that they don’t want to endanger it by making an issue.

      The businesses usually don’t come right out and SAY “You have to start working fifteen minutes before the start of your shift, but we’re not going to pay you for it.”

      Instead, they essentially assign an impossible task to the employees and then burden the employees with the consequences for failing to meet it. “Your shift ends at 11:00 and you won’t be paid for any time worked past that. Also, the store closes at 11:00, and the doors to the store must remain open until that time. You can’t ask customers to leave the store if they’re still in the store at 11:00, and you must be able to process purchases as long as a customer remains in the store.”

      And it’s not a matter of protecting workers from their bad decisions, as one commenter above suggested. It’s a matter of protecting workers in vulnerable circumstances from being taken advantage of by unscrupulous employers.

      An employer can be expected to be familiar with the relevant employment laws. It’s much harder to ensure that all workers are educated on their rights, and harder still to ensure that they will stand up for them when faced with a difficult decision.

      When the choice is between “lose my job” and “work some extra time unpaid”, and the gap between my last paycheck and my first EI payment is enough to make me lose my home? The possibility for some claim to be made against the company for compensation sounds great, but right now, right this second? I need that steady paycheck.

  4. The advice given by Evil HR Lady is good only if the company has an anonymous tip line or protection for whistleblowers.
    I agree with the commenter on the CBS site – the supervisor is the problem.

  5. And document, document, document, even if it is just time-dated emails to yourself. If you find yourself out the door, in WA state at least you can claim “illegal activity” to block a “fired for cause” unemployment insurance issue.

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