Accounting, Payroll & Pension Issues/Requred to punch in 7 minutes early
QUESTION: I just began working for a call center (located in Wisconsin, if the state matters). Their policy is that you must punch in seven minutes before your shift is scheduled to begin so that you can set up your computer screens and read internal emails prior to the actual scheduled start of your shift. We don't have the option of punching in early; it's mandatory. They say it's so you're ready to start taking calls right away when your shift starts. I say if I'm performing business related tasks, I'm already working, but the counter to this is that that's why they want you to punch in so you get paid for that time. Of course, since they round to the nearest quarter hour, there's no actual difference in pay than if the punch was at the scheduled start of the shift, and they're able to get a cumulative additional 35 minutes of work out of each employee per week without having to pay them any differently. Is this permissible/legal/ethical? If not, what can be done (other than showing them your answer) to correct the situation? I like working for the company otherwise.
ANSWER: I do not think there is anything that you can legally do as you are punching in and it is legal to round to the nearest 15 minutes. If you punch in 8 minutes early you know than it will round the other way and you will have 15 extra minutes. If you did that twice a week you would have your 30 minutes.
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QUESTION: Thank you for your response, but perhaps I was not clear. They would not allow me to punch in 8 minutes early, as that would generate unauthorized overtime. They will also not allow me to punch in right at the start of my actual shift, because I won't be ready to take calls. I MUST punch in at 7 minutes before my shift is scheduled to start and work (setting up my terminal and reading emails) or I will be disciplined (loss of commission, lower raises, potentially terminated) for not being ready to "start work" at the top of the hour. I contend that they can't require me to perform the tasks that are work-related and insist that I punch the clock such that I do not get the pay. Essentially, they're asking me to work 40 hours and 35 minutes and only pay me for 40 hours. Legally, can they require me to punch in and start working before the actual start of my shift?
You can file a complaint with the department of labor. This will trigger an investigation by the department of labor. I cannot say what the outcome is. I can see what they are doing, I am not sure how to fix it other than to get the department of labor involved. This could cause some hard feelings between you and the employer, but it is the only way to fix this problem.
It is illegal to not pay for time spent donning uniforms and getting ready for work. I do not know how the department of labor will view this practice.