With the growing popularity of smartphones and other devices that allow users to check e-mail, answer calls, and respond to texts, the number of people working while out of the office is growing. Studies have shown that 50% of people who use e-mail at work also check when they are home, 46% say they check e-mails on a sick day, and 34% say they check their e-mail while on vacation. Though many employees regularly do work over the internet outside of normal working hours, few are actually paid overtime for these hours. While it may be difficult to avoid work with growing advances in technology, workers may at least be entitled to receive compensation for work-related e-mailing, calling, or texting.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) sets strict guidelines for overtime compensation, and under these rules, many workers may be eligible to receive overtime pay for their phone and internet usage outside of work hours. This compensation can be significant, as the FLSA sets the national overtime as one-and-one-half-times the regular rate of pay for every hour worked over 40 in a single workweek. Even if an employer does not specifically require an employee to answer e-mails or correspondences after hours, the employee may still be eligible to receive overtime pay if the employer allows them to do so and if it is a regular occurrence.
So who is entitled to collect overtime for these after-work actions? Under the FLSA, there is something that is called an exemption, and if an employee fulfills certain criteria, he or she may not be entitled to the minimum wage and/or overtime pay. Therefore, an employee must first find out if they are considered exempt or non-exempt. There are many exemptions with detailed requirements, but some include executives, managers, or administrators; farmworkers; seasonal recreational establishment employees; casual babysitters; or certain domestic service employees. Though there are many exemptions, most workers in the United States are considered non-exempt, and are therefore eligible to receive overtime.
While many workers seem to think that after-work e-mailing is quick and harmless, these hours can add up. If an individual checks work-related e-mail for only 15 minutes each day (including weekends), this adds up to over ninety overtime hours in the course of a year, which is a significant amount of time. Additionally, because these technological advances have happened fairly quickly, most companies have still not crafted policies to fairly compensate employees for overtime pay related to work-related after-hours correspondence. For this reason, employees may be eligible to pursue compensation through an overtime lawsuit. If you believe that you or a loved one is not being justly compensated for working overtime, contact an experienced overtime attorney to see if you are entitled to receive back wages for unpaid overtime.