At what point does constant contact with your job become unfair? — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily

At what point does constant contact with your job become unfair?

by on
in Admin Pro Forum

Question: “I’m an hourly employee, but with email, smartphones and remote network access being facts of life, my workplace seems to assume I’m occasionally checking in when I’m away ‘in case something comes up.’ I want to curb these unpaid, ever-accumulating minutes – or are they just the new reality of being employed?” – Darcy W., Tax Processor

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Chris Marston June 8, 2012 at 11:12 pm

Wow fantastic question, I think most of us have been in the situation at one time or another. I was in the financial sector for a long time and in my case my processors were my life line. I consistently surprise them with a bonus or percentage of the deal.

Reply

g June 8, 2012 at 4:29 pm

Our salaried staff I believe can have access at home. My boss who is the HR Director for example does. Now another salaried employee in my office is allowed and does check from home but it annoys me because they forget what they’ve read and have to ask you when you get it. Or like this week asked me to handle something because they were coming in late (it was a time issue with a new hire). I can understand directors but no one else should be checking from home either salaried or hourly. What happen to days of leaving work at work?
The work world is not going to crash and burn because they can’t reach you!

Reply

Debbie June 8, 2012 at 9:17 am

I agree with the others. If you are not on the clock and being paid to work, there is absolutely no reason you should be checking emails. If you choose to check emails, that is by choice. The company cannot legally make you check emails and deal with things from home unless they are paying you. If you choose to work off the clock and not get paid for it, don’t complain! You have a choice!

Reply

Lisa S June 7, 2012 at 5:35 pm

I agree with the others. If you’re non-exempt, you should be paid overtime for any extra hours you work outside of your normal work day. I would check with your boss, or with HR, to ask what their expectations really are regarding your working extra hours; ask them to spell out what is expected very clearly. As Mark has stated, not paying you for overtime is against the FLSA regulations for non-exempt employees.

My company is so careful about this issue that I have not been given access to my work email or other documents after-hours (I’m non-exempt) — even though it would be handy for me to have access sometimes! They told me that, by giving me access to email, etc., it gives the impression that I would be EXPECTED to work after-hours. Not so.

Reply

Mark June 7, 2012 at 4:54 pm

This is a very common violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. If you are non-exempt (meaning you get paid overtime for more than 40 hours a workweek), if you are doing work on the go or from home, you are required to be paid for it. I would talk to your supervisor (or HR dept if you have one), and say something to the effect of, “Since checking e-mails and voice mail while on vacation is required by the Department of Labor to be tracked and paid, would you prefer that I do so and mark it on my time sheet when I get back, or just check messages when I return?” That way you get across, in a non-threatening manner, that you expect to be paid if you are required to do this. If you are point-blank being told not to mark your time down, document it. Write down who said it, exactly what they said (word for word is best), and the date and time. Then track every single minute that you work outside of the office. It can be evidence against them if you ever leave under unpleasant circumstances. Hopefully they will respond accordingly and either have you track your time (and pay it) or tell you not to check in while off. My outgoing message is always specific and to the point. “I’m sorry I missed your call. I will be out of the office from June 2 through June 10, returning on the 11th. If you’d like to leave a message, I will return your call on the 11th.” My e-mail away message is similar. That way people know that I will not be checking in until I get back.

Reply

Karen Loughman June 7, 2012 at 4:53 pm

If no one has asked you to check in, then why are you doing it? If you voluntarily check work emails and have not been asked, then I agree with the others that you should have a brief discussion and get agreement with your supervisor regarding this.

Reply

Deb June 7, 2012 at 4:53 pm

When I was a salaried employee, I did check my e-mail on my own time, and replied when necessary. As an hourly employee I still check my e-mail on my own time, but leave responding to the next business day, unless it is an urgent matter. I’m not required to check or respond to e-mails during off hours, but choose to to stay ahead of the game by being prepared for the next work day by checking my e-mails. If you want to check and respond since you have the technology, ask the company if they’ll pay for your time…otherwise let it go until the next day. If I were to ask my boss to be paid for checking my e-mail and responding during off hours, chances are they’d tell me it could’ve waited until I was back in the office. Nowadays, some companies would rather their employees wait until the next business day to respond than to pay them overtime due to “ever-accumulating minutes”. Good Luck!

Reply

Mere June 7, 2012 at 4:37 pm

If you have an HR department, they should be a great resource for this. Ask them to clarify that the Dept of Labor mandates that you get paid for ALL the time you work. Then before I left for the day or the weekend, I would ask my boss if there was anything on the horizon that might necessitate checking in and that you will be glad to do so now that HR has confirmed it will be paid time (and perhaps overtime). If they do not specify anything, just say, “I’ll see you tomorrow.” If they do request that you check in, you will at least be assured that you will get paid for the time. I have this type of understanding related to vacation days. If my boss calls me while I am “off” I am immediately “on and working” and do not count that day as a day off regardless of how much or how little time the call takes. This gives me another day to take off later.

Reply

Sharon June 7, 2012 at 4:05 pm

Lawyers keep tabs by the minute – even if they are driving in their cars and answering your questions. Get a firm commitment from your boss that you will be glad to do this and expect it will be your regular rate of pay (which may put you into overtime. Otherwise, yeah, “I’ll be back in at 9 a.m.” We have one employee who doesn’t give out his cell phone number at work!

Reply

Melanie June 7, 2012 at 10:45 am

If you are hourly, you don’t have to work after hours unless you get paid for it. If your boss wants you to check email or phone messages at night you should get at least a minimum set block of over time. If you answer the email, or return calls during only when you are at work let the person know that you are only available during business hours.

Reply

Jan June 7, 2012 at 4:40 pm

I agree. If it was not set up via contract or verbally, you have no obligation to respond. Discuss in a professional matter with your manger your concerns and what you would like to happen. If that doesn’t help, go to HR.

You will have to be the one to set the boundaries.

Reply

Leave a Comment