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Workers in early to fire up computers? You must pay

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in Human Resources

If you ask workers to show up a little early to start their computers and get ready to work, be prepared to pay them for that time.

Recent case: Several Quest Communications call center employees sued for overtime violations. They said managers told employees to arrive early so they could start computers and software—and then set work objectives so high that employees had to be ready to work the instant their shifts began.

Quest argued that it had a strict policy against off-the-clock work.

But the court said what mattered was what was actually happening and not what employees were told should happen. It ordered a trial. (Burch, et al., v. Quest Communications International, No. 06-3523, DC MN, 2009)

How to avoid such lawsuits: Design better systems so prep time is minimal—but still paid. Or simply start the actual shift a few minutes after paid time begins.

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