When these employees are forced to perform job-related activities before or after their shift without being compensated, that is likely a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, or FLSA. Even 30 minutes in non-compensated work can add up to a substantial amount of money when it happens day in, day out.
Take someone making $15 an hour as an example. If that person puts in an average of 30 minutes of “off-the-clock” work each day during a five day workweek in which he or she is otherwise paid for 40 hours of work, then that equals 2.5 unpaid overtime hours per week, or $56.25 in unpaid overtime wages per week. With the FLSA’s penalty for not timely paying overtime wages, known as liquidated damages, that equals $112.50 in back wages and penalties per workweek. If that employee works under those conditions for 48 weeks per year for two years, that equals $10,800 in back wages and penalties. Furthermore, the FLSA requires employers to pay the legal fees and costs for employees who prevail. Finally, the FLSA requires employers to keep an accurate record of all time worked per day by employees, and if the employer fails to do so, then the law allows the employee to make a reasonable estimate of their unpaid hours worked.
Many call center and customer service employees are required to be on site before their official workday starts. Before they can begin work, they often need to log in to their computer networks and perform other functions that their employers deem vital to their duties – again, they are regularly expected to do this off-the-clock.
For example, many call center employees work from home on a virtual private network, or VPN. It can take a great deal of time to log in and out of a VPN, as long as 10 minutes – and that is assuming there are no connectivity issues. This must be done not only at the beginning and end of every shift, but also before and after every break. Whether an employee is working in an office or at home, this can easily add up to 30 minutes or more of unpaid work each shift.