The workers of Smithfield Foods, Inc. filed suit against their employer recently seeking to get paid for all of the time that they spent working for the company. According to the lawsuit, Smithfield did not pay the workers for thirty to forty-five minutes that they spent working each day, and that this lost time consisted of time spent by the workers putting on and removing protective clothing and working for the company “off the clock.” The workers contend that, after including this time in their hours worked each week, they are entitled to overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act, which requires employers to pay employees “time and a half” for time spent working more than 40 hours in a workweek.
Unfortunately, the claims of the Smithfield employees are not unusual and there will always be employers looking for ways to get work from their employees without having to pay them. The Fair Labor Standards Act, however, requires employers to pay employees one and one-half times the normal rate of pay (“time and a half”) for all time worked beyond 40 hours in a workweek, and to include ALL time spent performing work for the employer’s benefit in this calculation. This includes time spent putting on and removing necessary protective clothing and gear, working “off the clock,” participating in training, working from home, “idle” time on the job, or any other time spent performing work for the benefit of the employer. The issue is one of fundamental fairness, and fairness dictates that employers should pay their employees for the benefit of all of their work.