With few exceptions, hourly employees are entitled to pay for all time worked. Paid time can include the time it takes to put on specialized equipment and clothing and walk to a workstation.
If you rely on an inaccurate formula to calculate that time, a jury may correct your mistake for all similarly situated employees—and a judge may double the amount owed for unpaid time.
Recent case: Peg and other Tyson Foods employees sued over unpaid time they alleged they spent putting on protective clothing and gear and walking to their stations before and after their shifts. Tyson only paid for time on the actual production line, plus four minutes per day to gear up.
At trial, the jury heard testimony showing that it took most workers 18 minutes to get dressed and walk to their stations. The jury awarded the class $2,892,379, which was then doubled as permitted under the Fair Labor Standards Act. (Bouaphakeo, et al., v. Tyson Foods, No. 12-3753, 8th Cir., 2014)
Final note: It used to be hard for employees to track how many extra minutes they worked. That’s not true anymore. The U.S. Department of Labor offers a smartphone app that employees can use to track time down to the minute and calculate how much they should receive for the workweek, including any overtime. If the numbers differ from what the employer has on the paystub, look out.