You’re enjoying family time in the Rockies, and your boss calls to discuss something that just can’t wait until after your vacation. He asks you to review a project online. You agree for several reasons, not the least of which is making sure you’ll have a job when you return. You forego an afternoon nap and review the project quickly to make sure you don’t miss tomorrow’s trail ride.
You don’t mind, you say, because you want to be a team player. That’s all well and good, but your boss may have to pay you for the time you spend talking on the phone or working on the computer from the mountain forests.
According to Perry Pirsch, corporate and employment law specialist at the Berry Law Firm in Lincoln, Nebraska, it’s not uncommon for employees and their employers to believe work completed during vacation can be undocumented and unpaid. And there’s a lot more out-of-office work these days, thanks to advanced electronics.
“In this age of smart phones,” Pirsch said, “many employees have access to work email on their phones, and employers may be tempted to reach out to employees, even when they are away from the office.”
However, Pirsch said, non-exempt employees cannot be taken advantage of in this way, just because it’s convenient to call. Non-exempt employees — usually those NOT on salary — must be paid for the work they do, no matter where or when they do it.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires non-exempt employees to be paid at least minimum wage for all hours worked, and to be paid overtime (time and a half) for more than 40 hours per week — including time worked away from the office.
Pirsch explains, “The overtime requirement may not be waived by agreement between the employer and employee, or by an announcement by the employer that no overtime work will be permitted or that overtime work will not be paid for unless authorized in advance.” If you believe you have worked hours that remain unpaid, contact your attorney and ask about legal funds available through the FLSA.
How does an adventurer ensure vacation-time pay is received? Pirsch encourages non-exempt employees to know their employment status and discuss vacation work with supervisors before leaving town. If your boss calls anyway, keep a log of time worked while on the road (or mule trail), and make sure hours are correctly represented on timesheets.