Off-the-clock and ‘unapproved’ work hours should still be paid

KAREN Martinez worked as a Case Manager for John Muir Health, a health care service corporation operating primarily in Contra Costa County, CA. Martinez was an hourly non-exempt employee who was regularly scheduled to work from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with supposedly a 30-minute unpaid off-duty meal period.

When the employer instituted cost cutting measures by laying off several employees, those who were retained saw their workloads increase. They were required to perform numerous work duties “off the clock” in order to complete tasks associated with additional patients assigned to them. They would clock out at the end of the workday and would continue to input patient notes and process insurance claims.

The employer maintained an electronic system called EPIC which employees used to record their notes and process insurance claims. The EPIC system recorded when employees would be entering data into the system. It also showed that employees made entries into the EPIC system while at work. The employer knew that the employees were working off-the-clock and without pay because employees were physically present at the facility and the EPIC system recorded the time when they were working.

When comparing the difference between the time entries from EPIC to the time entries in the KRONOS (the electronic system used to record employee work hours for payroll purposes), it showed that the employees worked a significant amount of time “off-the-clock.” Despite knowing this, the employer allowed the employees to continue working off-the-clock without pay. Martinez estimated that she was required to work approximately 300 hours off-the-clock and was owed approximately $30,000 in unpaid wages.

In addition to the off-the-clock work, the employer also did not provide the employees with meal and rest break periods within 5 hours after the start of a shift, did not provide a second meal period for those who worked more than 10 hours during the day, and did not provide a full 30-minute uninterrupted meal period.

Martinez sued the employer in a class action to recover unpaid wages for the off-the-clock work and for the missed meal and rest periods.

California law requires employers to compensate employees for all time they are “suffered or permitted to work, whether or not required to do so.” Management must make every effort to enforce a rule against uncompensated work, including taking reasonable steps to investigate suspected work that is done without compensation. Employers cannot sit back or simply stand by while employees do uncompensated work.

Off-the-clock hours may be incurred before or after the employees’ scheduled shift. For example, an employee who has a shift from 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 pm may be required to work at 8:00 a.m. or to finish work at 6:00 p.m. Off-the-clock hours are still considered “hours worked” and must be paid to the employee.

Off-the-clock work arises in a variety of work situations. Employees may find themselves required to do preliminary work before they actually perform their main job. They may, for instance, be asked to clean or maintain tools or equipment. Employers may also ask them to do postliminary work or complete certain tasks after the end of their shift after their main job is completed.

If any off-the-clock work goes beyond 8 hours per day, then the employee is entitled to the overtime rate of 1½ times their regular rate. Those who work beyond 12 hours per day are entitled to twice their regular rate. Also, employees should be paid an extra hour for any missed meal break, and another extra hour for any missed rest break.

Rather than continue to litigate the case, the parties agreed to a settlement where the employer agreed to pay a total of $9,500,000 to approximately 6,000 class members.

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The Law Offices of C. Joe Sayas, Jr. welcomes inquiries about this topic. All inquiries are confidential and at no-cost. You can contact the office at (818) 291-0088 or visit www.joesayaslaw.com. [For more than 25 years, C. Joe Sayas, Jr., Esq. successfully recovered wages and other monetary damages for thousands of employees and consumers. He was named Top Labor & Employment Attorney in California by the Daily Journal, consistently selected as Super Lawyer by the Los Angeles Magazine, and is a past Presidential Awardee for Outstanding Filipino Overseas.]

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