Employees must be paid for all time they work, whether that time was authorized or not. Workers asked or forced to work off-the-clock either before their shift begins or after it ends (or who wind up working through a break) may later sue over unpaid time.
What’s worse, a lone employee may try to bring in all other similarly situated co-workers in a collective action. That can turn a relatively manageable lawsuit into one that costs a fortune in damages.
Don’t assume that merely having a written policy that prohibits working off the clock will insulate you from liability. You must do more.
Make sure employees get a copy of your policy. Get their written acknowledgment that they received it. Then be prepared to demonstrate that not only do you have a policy, but that your employees knew about it and your supervisors followed it.
Recent case: Sabas and many other field workers who picked table grapes sued their employer over alleged off-the-clock work.
They said they had to begin picking before clocking in, work that they alleged was unpaid.
The employer pointed out that a policy specifically prohibited such work and that each employee got a copy of the policy.
But some of the employees explained that they couldn’t read English, plus they testified that their supervisors made them work before clocking in anyway.
The court said their collective action could go forward.
The employer will have to prove that it enforced its no-working-without-clocking-in policy. (Arredondo v. Delano Farms, No. 1:09-CV-01237, ED CA, 2014)