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Compensation  >>   Woman fired for working off the clock Search Discussion Posts
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Woman fired for working off the clock  
Posted: 01/20/2012 07:16am   91 Views

The article about the Chicago woman who was fired because she was working off the clock has generated a lot of discussion in our office. I am curious how the FLSA gurus would have dealt with the issue.




Woman fired for working off the clock  
Posted: 01/20/2012 06:07pm  
   (1 rating)

Good article covering a whole lot of territory. Yes, the firing was justified and righteous, IMHO, because she was adamant in her admitted refusal to abide by the company rules. Those authorized worktime rules were both legally required and designed to assure total compliance with both FLSA and IL labor law. The firm would have been threatened with great hazards if others had imitated her behaviors. If every clerk decided to work extra time at their own option and even in opposition to management prohibitions, the company would still face back pay charges, overtime violation fines and other penalties. The consequences would have been especially bad if the offenders kept their "off the clock" work hours secret from management but still submitted them to DOL WHD per the new app, thus "proving" they were denied righteously earned overtime.

Although the discharge was termed "for cause" by the company, the IL admistrative law judges and other courts have the authority to accept or reject that claim. No one (not even the victim) denied the company's right to fire her for her intransigence. The single issue was the UC aspect. The only effect from that dispute should have been the timing of the initial start of the claimant's Unemployment Compensation benefits and whether that employer's UC account should be charged for the claim, if I remember IL UC law right. It appears that the IL UC Division completely rejected her claim for UC benefits, at every level, due to her admitted "misconduct" (I guess IL DES got tighter and nastier as their UC funds have been drained like others). The IL circuit courts, not typically involved in labor or employment matters and with no budgetary issues involved, decided otherwise.  Perhaps the courts felt that the misconduct was well-intended and the employee should have the personal legal right to do whatever she wanted with her lunch time.

I personally agree with that latter sentiment as logical, you know, but neither Federal nor State labor law permit it: on the contrary, the governing laws hold the employer accountable for the time they permit their employee to work. Yes, it is antiquated, obsolete thinking completely destructive of the ROWE philosophy, but it does remain the law of the land.  If you don't expel your hourly workers from your premises at quitting time and keep such records, you are exposed to risk.  Ask any labor attorney.

From the FLSA standpoint, my guess is that the company would have been obliged to pay her for unused lunch time spent on actual work; and IL overtime laws tend to be even more generous, as I recall. Smartest way out would have been to send her home a half-hour early, so as to avoid the entire confrontation.


Woman fired for working off the clock  
Posted: 01/24/2012 06:56am  

Illinois FLSA law: http://www.laborcounsel.com/summary.htm


Woman fired for working off the clock  
Posted: 01/24/2012 07:24am  
   (1 rating)

Jim has made a great response.  I agree with his comments!

My question after reading the article, is what type of prior notice (if any) this employee had received about the consequences of working when 'off the clock.'  If she truly was unaware that she could not do work while punched out, she should have been educated, the conversation documented, and she should have been paid for that time...and as Jim said, perhaps sent home early that day to keep her within her workhour allotment for the pay period.  Subsequent violations would warrent termination for failure to follow the company's work practices...and there would be a documented trail to support the infraction.

Perhaps that occurred...we don't know from the article.

The article does throw in a piece of information that, prior to this incident last winter, the employee was on medical leave due to work-related stress.  If the workload was such that the employee felt that she would be at risk by not completing the project within a specific amount of time, I can understand that she was using her (personal time during) lunch to meet the deadline.  I don't know if this is true of this situation; however, leaders need to be sensitive of this (time crunch) within their teams and prioritize work appropriately.


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