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Officers allege they were denied overtime for off-the-clock work

Technology has provided the convenience of keeping people in California and across the world connected; however, this can dramatically change the way employers manage hours worked by non-exempt employees on smartphones. Workers who spend time working on their mobile devices may have difficulty keeping record of the overtime or being instructed on how to report it. Some companies may also expect that work performed outside of the office is something that they can get away with not paying.

A group of workers in a police department in another state have filed a class action lawsuit against the city that will be heard in a federal court. The class includes 50 past and present members of the bureau as well as the lead plaintiff. They allege that the time they spent answering emails and calls should have equated to them being compensated for overtime.

The difficulty with time spent off-the-clock is that it is difficult to gauge because there is a lack of time records. The plaintiffs claim they felt pressured to not turn in overtime slips for their work that was done off-the-clock. The supervisors at the bureau testified that if the plaintiffs had turned in slips to be paid for the overtime spent on their smartphones, they would have been approved. The department also contends that it is the responsibility of the officers to submit slips for the time that they work and that no one felt pressured to not report those hours.

The plaintiffs allege that the bureau violated the Fair Labor Standards Act, and according to that act, employers cannot allow workers to work overtime and then not pay them. This case may set a precedent for how non-exempt employers in California and elsewhere will handle work done on smartphones in the future. Policies should be put in place for work that is performed off-the-clock so that both employees and employers clearly understand what is expected; if there are gray areas, questions should be asked to avoid conflict.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "Ruling could have impact for those working off the clock on phones", Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz, Aug. 25, 2015

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