Working off the Clock in California: What Are Your Rights

alarm clock and money representation of labor

Working off the clock is illegal under California labor laws. Any off the clock work, whether it be seconds or minutes, must be compensated.

What is Off the Clock Work?

Off the clock work occurs whenever an employee performs undocumented work. This includes performing work duties before clocking in or after clocking out, working while on designated rest breaks, and other situations where workers perform job duties without their time being recorded for payment.

Is Working Off the Clock Illegal?

Working off the clock is illegal under both federal and California labor laws. However, while federal laws may allow small increments of off the clock work, California law completely prohibits working off the clock. This comes from a California Supreme Court ruling in an off the clock work lawsuit.

Certain employees are considered “exempt” from the California labor laws that require overtime compensation or mandated rest or lunch breaks. These are often salaried employees, and include many in executive, administrative, and professional positions.

A former Starbucks employee filed the lawsuit in 2012, claiming that he had been forced to work off the clock while working for the coffee chain. Starbucks allegedly required the plaintiff and other workers to transmit sales data, bring in patio furniture and condiments, set the store alarm, and walk coworkers to their vehicles after clocking out for the day. Over the course of 17 months, the plaintiff allegedly worked 13 hours off the clock due to these requirements.

A San Francisco federal judge dismissed this case in 2014, but this was not the end of the road. The plaintiff appealed the dismissal, elevating the case to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and, eventually, the California Supreme Court.

IVC Filter Verdict Awards $1.2M to Texas PatientAfter reviewing the case, the California Supreme Court determined that small increments of off the clock work could quickly add up to hundreds of dollars. The unrecorded time worked by the plaintiff would have allegedly resulted in $102 in additional wages.

“That is enough money to pay a utility bill, buy a week of groceries, or cover a month of bus fares. What Starbucks calls ‘de minimis’ is not de minimis at all to many ordinary people who work for hourly wages,” wrote California Supreme Court Associate Justice Goodwin Liu.

Can You File A Lawsuit for Off the Clock Work?

California has some of the most employee-oriented overtime laws in the country. If you were forced to work off the clock by your employer, you may be able to take legal action in a lawsuit or class action lawsuit similar to that filed against Starbucks.

Wage and hour claims have resulted in significant compensation for Californians financially injured by working off the clock. Earlier this year, Sprint agreed to pay $7.6 million to resolve allegations that it forced retail workers to perform undocumented work after their shifts.

If you have been subjected to violations of California labor laws, such as failure to pay overtime or failure provide adequate meal breaks, you may be able to file a lawsuit and pursue compensation.

Filing a lawsuit can be a daunting prospect, so Top Class Actions has laid the groundwork for you by connecting you with an experienced attorney. Consulting an attorney can help you determine if you have a claim, navigate the complexities of litigation, and maximize your potential compensation.

Get a Free California Wage & Hour Case Evaluation

If you are a worker in California and were subject to any of the following California employment law or California labor law violations within the past 2 to 3 years, you have rights—you don’t have to take on the company alone. An experienced California labor law attorney can assist you with reclaiming the money you may be owed.

If you were denied any of the following pay or wages, you may be entitled to compensation:

Legal help from California labor law attorneys is available to assist California workers who may be owed money because their employer failed to pay all the wages they were owed. 

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