Being “on the clock” is a common phrase California residents and people elsewhere use to mean that they are working. However, it also means that individuals who receive hourly pay have clocked in and are performing their work-related duties. Clocking in is important to hourly workers because that timestamp helps keep up with their hours worked and, essentially, the amount of compensation they have earned between clocking in and clocking out.
If you clock in late, you will not receive compensation for time not on the clock, or if you somehow miss clocking in altogether, even though you were at work, you may have to go through extra steps to ensure that you receive the compensation you earned. Your employer likely keeps up with each worker’s hours closely, but what happens if an employer asks you to work off the clock?
Avoid working off the clock
Working off the clock essentially means performing work-related duties outside your regular shift hours without receiving compensation. It is important to note that there is a difference between your employer asking you to work late and working off the clock. If he or she needs you to cover an extra hour or two, your employer likely intends for you to remain on the clock and to receive compensation; however, if he or she asks that you perform set-up or clean-up duties, redo a task, or complete paperwork before or after you clock in or out, that request could constitute wanting you to work off the clock, meaning you would not receive pay. That type of request violates wage and hour laws and could fall into the category of wage theft.
Subtle wage theft
In some cases, working off the clock may not come as an obvious request. For example, your employer may want you to start your day at 8:30 even though your shift starts at 9. Such a request could be confusing, especially if he or she does not explicitly say to clock in earlier, and if you wait until 9 to clock in as usual, you could miss out on deserved compensation if you begin work-related tasks at 8:30.
As an hourly worker, you may not make as much as salaried employees, so every hour you work is important to you and your income. If you believe that your employer has made you work off the clock or otherwise not compensated you for hours worked, you may want to discuss that matter with him or her. If it appears that your employer does not intend to provide you with earned pay, you may want to look into your legal options.