No long introduction required here. With iPhones, Blackberrys and laptops, everyone in the 2009 workplace knows that work can follow an employee home and to vacation (ABCNews published a good overview of the issue).
Recently, however, terminated employees are seeking compensation for this “overtime” work through costly litigation with high-stakes for employers across the country.
What will the courts say? It’s not clear.
The U.S. Fair Labor Standards Act was passed in 1938 with working conditions for factory workers in mind. These workers punched into work, and out of work, with very little opportunity to continue their work duties after-hours while at home or on vacation.
But how times have changed. And now, when you take the FLSA’s rule that workers must be paid overtime whenever they work 40+ hours (regardless of any permission from an employer), and apply it to the “after-hours” work performed by so many of the country’s workforce…the result is complicated.
In today’s economic client, construction companies are looking to be leaner and meaner, and that sometimes means less salary workers and more hourly employees. It also means companies are working to maximize the return on each worker.
More and more, construction workers and project managers are being outfitted with mobile devices to communicate about the project through email and text messages…and even to take photographs of the jobsite and work through project management systems. When the mobile devices go home or on vacation…is your company prepared to pay overtime?
Right now, the law on this issue is simply unclear, and the best practice for those in the construction industry is to discourage workers from working at home or on vacation (don’t bother them!), or to ask workers to log this time and turn it into your company for payment.
There’s no telling how the courts will decide this issue, but if it goes against employers, the failure to pay employees for out-of-office work could be expensive.