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Missouri Off-the-Clock Work Laws

Lampert Law Office, LLC  June 28, 2024

Off-the-clock work refers to any work performed by employees outside their scheduled hours for which they do not receive payment. Under Missouri and federal law, employers must compensate for all the hours employees are required to be on duty, on the employer's premises, or at any other designated work area.  

Despite these legal requirements, many employees find themselves working off-the-clock due to pressure from management, insufficient staffing, or a lack of understanding of their rights. So are they owed compensation for these extra hours? Here's what you need to know about Missouri off-the-clock work laws. 

Lampert Law Office, LLC is committed to clarifying these laws and correcting common misconceptions, all with the goal of ensuring compliance and promoting fair labor practices. Reach out today for legal assistance with any employment law matter in Missouri.  

Are Employers Required to Pay for Off-the-Clock Work?

According to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employers are obligated to pay employees for all the time they are engaged in work activities. But if your employer doesn't have accurate time records, how can they know if you have worked off the clock?  

Employers in Missouri must ensure that all hours worked are accurately recorded and compensated to avoid wage violations. Failing to pay for off-the-clock work can lead to significant legal and financial repercussions for employers.  

Employees have the right to file complaints with the Missouri Department of Labor or pursue legal action for unpaid wages.  

Employers found in violation of off-the-clock laws may be required to pay back wages, fines, and potentially face lawsuits or penalties for wage theft. 

Common Off-the-Clock Work Contexts

The following covers four of the most common scenarios where seemingly off-the-clock actions actually count as hours worked: 

Travel time: Generally, time spent traveling to and from work is not compensable. However, if an employee is required to travel as part of their job duties, such as traveling between job sites or attending an off-site meeting, that travel time should be compensated. Employers need to clearly distinguish between regular commute time and work-related travel to ensure compliance with wage laws. 

Lunch/meal breaks: Regarding lunch or meal breaks, Missouri follows federal guidelines, which do not require employers to provide meal periods but do stipulate that if a break is provided and it is 20 minutes or less, it must be paid. For longer, unpaid meal periods, the employee must be completely relieved of all work duties. Any work performed during these breaks, even if minimal, can require compensation, making it crucial for employers to monitor and enforce proper break practices. 

Training: Any training that is directly related to an employee's job and occurs outside regular working hours must generally be compensated. This includes mandatory seminars, webinars, and meetings that employees are required to attend. Employers should ensure that all training sessions are recorded accurately to reflect the time employees spend to avoid potential disputes over unpaid wages. 

Checking emails: A common modern off-the-clock concern is the expectation for employees to check emails or perform other minor tasks outside of scheduled work hours. Even if these activities seem insignificant, they can accumulate over time, potentially leading to substantial unpaid labor. Employees who are required to check emails or engage in other work-related communications outside their normal hours should be compensated for their time. Employers must set clear policies about the expectations for electronic communications outside of work hours and ensure that any such time is tracked and paid appropriately. 

How Can Employers Ensure Compliance With Off-The-Clock Work Laws?

To ensure compliance with off-the-clock work laws, employers should implement clear policies and procedures that explicitly prohibit off-the-clock work and outline the process for accurately recording all hours worked.  

By maintaining a proactive approach and fostering open communication, employers can mitigate the risks of wage violations and foster a fair and legally compliant work environment: 

  • Management and staff training sessions can reinforce the importance of complying with labor laws and recognizing situations where off-the-clock work may occur.  

  • Employers should also utilize reliable time-tracking systems to capture all working hours accurately. This may involve using electronic timekeeping software that requires employees to clock in and out for all activities, including breaks and any work performed outside regular hours.  

  • Regularly auditing timesheets and payroll records helps identify potential discrepancies and ensures that all recorded hours receive appropriate compensation. 

What Steps Should Employees Take if Involved in Off-the-Clock Work?

If you've been working off-the-clock, you need to understand that you should be receiving payment for your time and may be entitled to additional compensation if your employer has violated the law.  

The first step is to document all instances of unpaid work meticulously. This includes noting down dates and times when the work was performed, the nature of the tasks, and any communications with supervisors or colleagues that may support their claim.  

Employees should then promptly report the issue to their employer or human resources department, providing the documented evidence. Many companies have internal grievance procedures in place to address such concerns.  

If the employer fails to resolve the issue satisfactorily, employees may consider filing a complaint with the Missouri Department of Labor or the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division. 

Consulting an attorney who specializes in labor law can offer significant advantages. An attorney can provide expert guidance on the legal ramifications of off-the-clock work and assist in interpreting the complexities of both state and federal labor laws. They can also help gather additional evidence, represent the employee in negotiations with the employer, and, if necessary, file a lawsuit to recover unpaid wages. An experienced attorney will ensure that employees' rights are protected throughout the process and can potentially secure back pay, damages, and legal fees. 

Contact Lampert Law Office, LLC

Facing issues with off-the-clock work can be stressful and confusing, but Lampert Law Office, LLC stands ready to help. If you're in Springfield, Missouri, or the surrounding areas of Joplin, Jasper, Taney County, or Christian County, reach out for expert legal assistance. Protect your rights against unfair wage practices and seek justice with the guidance of Raymond B. Lampert.