As union Reps, we constantly lecture and warn our members’ not to work off the clock. The term “work off the clock” simply means that you are working for free. Working off the clock is not new to our industry. There were always those few members that thought they had to stay over, off the clock, and get more work done and look like a hero. Lately, we have seen an increased amount of discipline, in the form of suspensions and terminations, to our members for working off the clock.
Members work off the clock for various reasons. Sometimes they feel so overwhelmed with work, that the only way to complete their daily tasks is to work beyond the allotted time. That would be fine if the company was willing to pay them for the work that they were performing. But, members are generally told by management that there is no overtime allowed and they need to finish all their work before they go home. So if overtime is not allowed, and all the work must be completed, many members conclude that they must stay off the clock to keep from getting in trouble. It is extremely rare that a manager would ask you to stay and work off the clock.
The classic example of working off the clock is either starting work early before clocking in or staying after you punch out for the day. Another example is punching out for lunch and going back to work or working through breaks. Any way that it is done it is wrong, a violation of the contract and wage & hour law. The discipline is usually given to members for falsification of time records and where there is no employer knowledge the employee may be summarily discharged.
Violations of this nature are very serious. It is much easier for the Union to defend members that did not complete their work assignments and received a written warning than it is for falsification of time records.
For those of you that find yourself pressured to work off the clock, our advice is as follows:
- Keep a journal of the day. Note anything that may have kept you from getting your job done on time. Example, someone called in sick, the load was late, or you were asked to check or unload a truck.
- Let management know when you need help.
- Inform management that you need more time and offer to stay, “on the clock”, to get the job done.
- Work smart and prioritize. It may impossible to get everything done, but if you prioritize you just may get the most important things done.
If you receive a written warning for job performance, take it seriously. Sign it under protest and file a grievance with the Union so that warning can be officially protested through the grievance procedure spelled out in your contract. This will allow your Rep to help argue the validity of the written warning. Your notes from your journal will be especially valuable during this process.
Remember, working off the clock is never a good plan. It is a recipe for your termination.