You may be tempting fate—and a Fair Labor Standards Act () class-action lawsuit—if you demand so much productivity from employees that they can’t reasonably get everything done within the time you allow. The problem: Employees may feel compelled to work off the clock.
Here’s how it could happen. You tell your managers that employees must track all their time, and then set high expectations for what they must accomplish during that time. The managers push the employees to get the work done, threatening discipline if they fall short. The workers then do the rational thing: They come in early or stay late to meet their quotas and your expectations.
And then someone files an FLSA lawsuit, representing all affected employees.
Recent case: Heather and several other call center employees sued their employer, Verizon Wireless, claiming they worked before and after their shifts but weren’t paid for that time.
According to the employees, before they logged into the call center system each morning at the beginning of their shifts, they spent time checking email, logging onto the system and otherwise preparing for the calls that would soon begin. Then they reversed the process after the end of their scheduled shifts.
Verizon told the court that it neither encouraged nor condoned off-the-clock work, and that the employees could have read email and performed other routine tasks between calls.
The employees said there was literally no time to do so between calls.
Heather and the other plaintiffs sought to represent all other employees who were affected by the same expectations.
The court said they could proceed with the class action, based on their representation that’s expectations could not be met during regular working hours. Of course, they will now have to prove that was the case. (Jennings, et al., v. Verizon, No. 12-00293, DC MN, 2012)