It is not uncommon for workers to occasionally find themselves staying overtime during the busy season, especially when understaffed.
However, if your employer consistently asks you to work beyond your normal scheduled hours without pay and you are not an exempt employee, they are violating the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Employers must pay workers
The FLSA mandates that your boss must pay you for any tasks performed, whether that be during, before or after normal hours. Even if your employer does not order you to do something, if you do it and it is for your job, they must provide compensation. For up to 40 hours a week, they must pay you at least minimum wage. After 40 hours, they must pay the overtime rate, which is one and a half times your normal hourly rate.
Many activities constitute working off the clock
It is easy to get caught up in the functions of your duty and not realize that your boss owes you pay for certain activities. For instance, if you work in a bakery and come early to prepare, you are on the clock. The same applies to cleaning after shutdown, training, email correspondence, taking phone calls, working during unpaid breaks and traveling between work sites. However, it is important to remain aware of your company’s hours policy as it may include a section to cover off-the-clock work.
Asking you to work before, after or in-between your normal hours and not counting the work as on the clock is exploitation and illegal. If your employer does this, you may have legal recourse.