As more employees work from home during the Coronavirus epidemic, it can be harder for employers to tell if an employee is working unpaid overtime.
Nevertheless, you are legally entitled to be paid for every single hour you work. Your employer must pay you for overtime that they know or should know you are working, even if it wasn’t approved in advance.
According to a recent bulletin by the U.S. Department of Labor, the agency is paying attention to this issue. It makes clear that every employer must “exercise its control and see that the work is not performed if it does not want it to be performed.” It is not enough simply to have a policy prohibiting unapproved overtime.
Moreover, employers are required to pay for all hours an employee works, including work that was not requested but was suffered or permitted to be done. This includes work done from home.
Your employer must do more than set a policy. It must provide a reasonable reporting procedure for non-scheduled time. A standard time reporting process is not enough.
Even with a reasonable reporting procedure in place, it is possible that some employees will fail to report all of the hours they work. This may be done, for example, to give the impression of great productivity or efficiency.
If this happens, the employer is not required to undertake impractical efforts to uncover unreported hours.
At the same time, however, court cases have ruled that employees cannot waive their right to be paid for hours they have worked. And, the employer has the burden of preventing employees from working unwanted hours.
Again, making a rule against unrequested overtime is not enough. Your employer must make every reasonable effort to enforce such a rule.
Have you been working unapproved overtime?
When you’re under pressure to perform, it may be tempting to work overtime but not report it. Ask yourself if the pressure is internal to you or external from your employer.
Does your company turn a blind eye toward extra overtime? Are there policies that actively encourage it?
If you have been working unpaid overtime and your employer knows or should know, consider claiming the overtime on your time sheet.
Before you take any action, however, you should discuss your suspicions with an experienced employment law attorney. Your attorney can help you gather evidence and make an effective complaint to your company.