There are both federal employment laws that apply to modern workers and numerous state statutes as well. The right to fair pay, including the right to receive minimum wage, is particularly important for those in an hourly profession. What they receive an income every week is different because employers pay them based on the number of hours worked. Hourly workers are among those most likely to face hour and wage violations from their employers and therefore are among those who need to understand their employment rights better than the average person.
In general, employers have to compensate hourly workers for any time spent on routine job responsibilities. However, sometimes employers invoke the de minimis rule to justify a lack of compensation for certain work performed.
What exactly is the de minimis rule?
Although federal employment laws theoretically extend an entitlement to full payment for time worked to all hourly employees, there are a few exceptions to that standard. The de minimis rule is one of the most commonly utilized exceptions to payroll protections for hourly employees. According to the de minimis rule, employers can choose not to pay workers for small or negligible amounts of time committed to job tasks. However, for the de minimis rule to apply, the amount of time must be relatively small or insignificant. Additionally, the need for those services must be irregular or unpredictable.
Employers generally cannot justify demanding that workers perform significant job tasks that add up to a quantifiable amount of time repeatedly under the de minimis rule. For example, it would be inappropriate to require that a worker clock out before mopping the floor in a restaurant or performing final inspections at a retail facility at the end of a shift.
If the job responsibilities are predictable and require a quantifiable amount of time that is more than just a minute or two, employers have to account for that time and properly compensate their employees. Some companies try to get around this rule by intentionally training workers to think they have to do certain job tasks before they start a shift or after finishing a shift but before leaving for the day.
Those who recognize that an employer has intentionally reduced their wages may have grounds to bring a wage claim. Quantifying how much time someone spends performing uncompensated tasks could help evaluate whether the de minimis rule actually applies in a specific situation or whether the employer may have violated someone’s rights by asking them to do work off the clock.