REMOTE WORKERS- DON’T LET YOUR EMPLOYER CHEAT YOU OUT OF YOUR WAGES
The COVID pandemic impacted American society in numerous ways—one of the most significant was employees performing their jobs from home or other remote locations. Working remotely is now a permanent fixture in the workplace. Every day, millions of nonexempt employees (employees who must be paid for overtime when they work over 40 hours in a work week) are working from home or other remote locations with very little guidance from their employers on the proper recording of their time or safeguards in place to ensure all hours of work are properly captured and paid. However, a remote workforce does not relieve an employer from its obligations to comply with state and federal wage and hour laws.
Consider the following example: Mary works as a customer service representative for her company. She works from home four (4) days per week and is only in the office on Monday. Her job requires her to respond to customer complaints and prepare reports for her supervisor explaining the number of complaints she has received and how she resolved those complaints. Her hours are 9am to 6pm daily, with an hour for lunch. Her lunch break is automatically deducted from her hours of work in the company’s timekeeping system. She should be paid for overtime for any hours she works over forty each week.
Mary’s boss, Robert, is difficult. Robert thinks working from home is a luxury and thinks all his employees do not work hard at home. Because of the pressure created by Robert, Mary routinely works during her lunch break from 12-1, even though she is not paid for this hour because of the auto deduction made by the company’s payroll system. Mary logs off her computer each night at 6pm and her paid time ends at that time as well. However, Robert continues to email and text her with questions for many hours after 6pm. Robert expects Mary to respond to these questions immediately, he has let his team know if employees fail to respond to his texts and emails immediately, he views it as poor performance.
Mary is a single Mom of three children, and she needs her income, so she complies with his demands. MARY IS MAKING A BIG MISTAKE—SHE IS ALLOWING HER BOSS TO CHEAT HER OUT OF HER OVERTIME PAY. Robert has been working Mary “off the clock.” Mary should be paid when her lunch period is interrupted, and she is not relieved from duty. Responding to emails and text messages after 6pm is work and must be compensated. If we assume Mary is working an extra 8 hours each week because her lunch periods are interrupted and she is working after 6pm, and she is making $20.00 per hour, Robert has stolen $12,480.00 in overtime pay from Mary in a single year.
North Carolina and South Carolina have statutes which protect employee’s pay. In addition, the federal government enacted the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to protect workers against violations of their rights to minimum wage and overtime pay. The FLSA also requires employers to keep accurate records of the time employees work as well as the wages paid to employees. Under the FLSA, workers who question or complain about their wages are protected from retaliation by their employer.
The employment lawyers with Cromer Babb & Porter are available in South Carolina and North Carolina if you believe your employer has illegally failed to pay the wages or overtime pay owed to you.
By Jake Modla. November 13, 2023