Not getting paid at work for set-up/break-down. Is this ok?

New poster here so be gentle. I’m not sure whether this issue has ever come up, but if anyone can offer insight, it would be most appreciated.

I recently finished a job at a call-center, where I was employed from 8am-5pm. With an hour for lunch that worked out to 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week. In order to “clock in” at the start of each day, it was necessary to be at my work station by 7:52 or so, in order to activate the computer, log into various programs and such, so that I could be working at 8am on the dot. Likewise, it was impossible to leave at 5pm on the dot, as there were various shut down procedures that I had to adhere to in order to log out, so the earliest I could get out was 5:08.

When I questioned my boss about being paid for these minutes in which I was clearly on the clock in spirit, if not officially, he basically told me that life is tough, and being required to be at my desk for a few minutes either side of my work period was no different than the time spent commuting to work, and thus I shouldn’t be paid for this time.

I know it may seem incredibly petty to argue over an extra fifteen minutes a day having to sit in that cubicle, but over a week, that’s easily an extra hour of work, and over the course of a year… well, it adds up.

I guess my question is, do I have a legal leg to stand on? Can an hourly employee cry foul at being required to be at work and not get paid? (Of course, the flip side is that if I got to my desk at 8am, I wouldn’t be logged in until 8:08 and I would indeed be docked the time.)

Is it really the same thing as not getting paid for driving to work? Is set up and break down time, which I am required to do, my “donation” to the company?

I can’t answer your question, but it sounds very similar (legal-wise) to the situation where people must provide their own uniform or tools for certain jobs.

No, I believe this is different. I don’t know what state you live in, but it will depend on that.
In New York, your boss would be breaking the law. I have never had an employer require that I spend 8 minutes off the clock, and I worked in a hotel. If you’re required to be there, they have to pay you. I also worked in a call center, with computer payroll logins. The computers were on when we arrived, and the payroll screen was up. There was a 4-minute grace period after the start of the shift, and if logging in took longer than that, you would notify your supervisor to have the time changed manually.

If you only showed up three minutes early, you would be docked five minutes’ time; each minute you show up after the “unofficial” start time is docked from your official pay; therefore, all eight of those minutes are de facto working minutes. Fifteen minutes a day is 1.25 hours per week, or 62.5 hours in a working year (50 weeks). Even assuming minimum wage after taxes of something like $5/hr, that’s $300 or so per year. Life’s not fair, but that’s why we have wage laws.

You need to examine the contract under which you were hired – if such a contract exists – to make sure that there isn’t some specifically exclusionary language in there. Otherwise, I think you should talk to the other employees and maybe each chip in $20 to retain a lawyer. Also, ask to see your performance reports from the last year and get copies. You don’t want to be the target of retaliatory action and lose your job over this.

The OP bears a striking resemblence to the question posed by Otto’s Employment Law Q thread. The responses he got may be helpful to you.

I don’t know, but I would guess that the employer was in violation of some law or regulation. The “commuting to work” analogy is ridiculous – you already had to commute to the call center, didn’t you?

I suggest call your local U.S. Dept. of Labor Wage & Hour Division office. I’m pretty sure this is exactly the type of thing they handle. It’s amazing how some folks change their tune when the Feds are leaning on them. Here’s their website:

You’ve described a pretty clear violation of California labor law. So you are being treated illegally if you are in California. I am not a lawyer, so you might want to double check. I can’t speak to federal law or a state I don’t live in, but I’ve worked in HR for a major California employer, and you’ve described clearly illegal practices.

You are in a Catch-22 situation as far as Texas labor law is concerned. By law, the company is required to pay you for any time that you are “clocked-in”. Also by law, you are not allowed to perform any work off the clock. So in your case, by the strict letter of the law, you would never be able to start work, because you have to start work in order to clock in, but you have to clock in to start work, but you can’t start until you clock-in, lather, rinse, repeat.

An anonymous tip to the Labor Relations Board of your state would probably result in fines for your employer, backpay for it’s employees, and black-listing for the whistleblower.

OTOH, IANAL. This is what I learned in Manager training, so they may have skipped some of the finer points, such as a loophole that would allow your employer to get away with de facto involuntary servitude. I would like to hear what some of the legal eagles on the Dope have to say about this.

This is much like something Fry’s Electronics got in trouble for. They locked the doors at night and all closing employees had to all leave at the same time. When a department was finished working they had to clock off but they had to hang out by the time clock until everyone was done - sometimes an hour or so.

After the government was informed employees still hang out by the time clock until everyone is done but they don’t clock out until the doors are ready to be unlocked.

I would contact someone about this. It may not seem like much with just one person, but think of how much money this company is getting out of paying with ALL the employees. That’s smarmy business.

It is EXTREMELY important to note that US Labor laws allow the employer to pay its employees TO THE CLOSEST 15 MINUTES. In other words, if you clock in at 7:53 and clock out at 5:07 and take precisely an hour for lunch, you can legally get paid for 8 hours.

It is also important to note, contrary to popular belief, a lot of states don’t have their own labor laws, and the ones that do still don’t have laws as extensive as the US Laws. For instances, Rhubarb’s contentions don’t hold up to a thorough perusal of the Texas Labor Statutes. Wage and hour laws may be in there, but I sure can’t find them.

This is something you can show your boss if he needs a cite proving that you are to be paid for your set-up/break-down time. Assuming, of course, it’s causing you to consistently work at least 8 hrs 16 minutes per day, and he confirms that the company does practice rounding. :wink:

But I can tell you, unless your state has laws specifically covering these two issues, and has enough personnel to enforce them, you’re not likely to get any help. The US gov only goes after egregious offenders. Not enough enforcement personnel and all that. If they were even breaking a US statute, which is not clear from the limited information we have.

But I can tell you, unless your state has laws specifically covering these two issues, and has enough personnel to enforce them, you’re not likely to get any help. The US gov only goes after egregious offenders. Not enough enforcement personnel and all that. If they were even breaking a US statute, which is not clear from the limited information we have.[/QUOTE]

But wouldn’t it be possible (in theory) for a private civil lawsuit to recover back wages, even without government action?

Not that it would necessarily be a wise course, but theoretically possible, no?

Just thought I’d chime in. I’ve worked in four different call centers in Iowa and Illinois over the last couple of years, and this was the case at each of them. “Your shift starts at 8” meant “be logged in ready for your first call at 8,” rather than “You need to be inside the building at 8.” My billable hours have always started at that minute I was scheduled to start taking calls, not a few minutes earlier when I started logging into my PC.

I’d assume this is pretty industry-standard. Anyone out there taking calls in an inbound customer service center where it’s handled differently?

I worked at a call center in Iowa that had different rules. They said you were not allowed to turn on your computer until you had clocked in and you were not allowed to clock in before 8:00. That meant you had to wait around for 8:00 and then scramble to get everything ready to take calls ASAP because every second you were clocked in but not open to take calls went against your numbers.

It’s also worth noting, though not pertinent to the specific case here, that “piecework pay” will often apply. This is where you are expected to be present from 8:00 to 5:00 (less lunch) per day, and to produce a minimum of, say, 100 widgets per week (completed calls at a call center being as legitimate a “widget” as something like a motor mount), but you get paid by the number of “widgets” you produce during your shift, not for the hours spent working it. Provided that production requirements are not unreasonable and the pay-per-widget works out to at least minimum wage for the time the average skilled individual would spend producing a widget, this is quite legal.

I have a very strong feeling that, especially if what Jurph suggests is true, an employer requiring consistent day-in-and-day-out presence beyond the “official” hours for which it pays wages is in violation of some law. But without a specific cite of such a law, there may be no remedy.

As a ex-manager of several different orginazations, I would NEVER be this petty. Also, a (possible) call to the Dept. of Labor from an employee struck fear into the hearts of all of us managers.
You’re being messed over but, If I recall correctly, being fired because of a call to the Dept. of Labor is grounds for a lawsuit.
I may be wrong, but someone will come along and either verify or correct my statement.
Good Luck.

This is the case in both call centers I have worked in, in Illinois and Tennessee.

As I noted. IANAL. However, the specifics I mentioned were quite definitely spelled out in management training, but probably came from the CFR, which is valid even in Texas :slight_smile: .

Ask if they’ll put their policy re clocking in arrival time etc in writing.

The answer to that will tell you alot.

All I have to provide is an anecdotes.
I used to work for a job where you had a shift assigned for 6 hours and were only ever paid for 6 hours. You were given half an hour unpaid lunch, (you couldn’t skip this and finish half an hour early, you weren’t allowed to leave early.) which you couldn’t take because then you wouldn’t finish on time. Even if you worked through lunch, you still ran half an hour overtime.
It wasn’t that I was bad at the job, even the most experienced ran overtime. I don’t care who you are, you can’t finish dinner at 7 for 30 people, clean up all the dishes, cutlery, pots, pans, reset all the tables, clean all the floors, prep for the morning shift and be out at 8.

The job I work at now requires you to be at work 30 minutes early. This is not official, but you can’t get out of it. It is unpaid.
Yes things like this are unfair, and if I had the balls I would quit.

*is anecdotes.