MEMBER ALERT!     Employers get zillions of hours of work each year from employees who access their e-mail account on their own time to either answer e-mails, clear backlogs or just link up related messages for easier processing during the work day.  Virtually none of the employers are paying for that work and some even boldly require that employees read certain e-mails before they start their compensated work hours. Well, the Labor Department has moved to put an end to the refusal to compensate employees for their on-line, off-duty work.

In late October, the Dept. of Labor announced that it had signed a settlement agreement with Hilton Reservations Worldwide that provides over $700,000 in back pay to employees who were required to boot their work computers on their own time before starting a shift, open programs they will need during work hours, and read certain e-mails prior to their shift hours.

This settlement is a pretty good signal to the rest of the working world covered by FLSA that off-duty time spent on the employer’s e-mail or other automated, on-line systems is time for which the employee should have been paid.  There is more to filing a successful claim than that, but DOL has now made the rest of the inquiry worthwhile. Other factors that need be examined are whether the employer ordered employees to do this or knew about it and welcomed all the free labor, whether the employer prohibited employees from doing so, how closely the off-duty computer activity related to the work the employee was hired to do, etc.  In contrast, if you go on-line during non-work hours just because you want to keep up with what’s happening or fill some idle minutes, you probably have no claim.

If you think that you have a claim for extra hours you have already put in, contact a union representative for help.  The union will tell you whether you can file a grievance or can use an alternative claim process.  The union contract determines that.   Aside from getting the employer to compensate employees in the future, law requires that the employer compensate federal employees retroactively with back pay and interest as far back as six years ago.  Moreover, if the work was performed outside the normal 40 hour workweek, most employees are paid at twice their overtime rate for all the time.  In other words, some employees could get triple-time pay.  There should not be a dispute about time spent on e-mail or the network because both systems record the time you were active on them.

If you do not think that knowingly have employees misreport their time to avoid overtime is serious tell that to the manager in this story who is going to jail for doing just that.

(Pass this story on to anyone you think could benefit from the information.) 



About AdminUN

FEDSMILL staff has over 40 years of federal sector labor relations experience on the union as well as management side of the table and even some time as a neutral.
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