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Is it illegal for your boss to make you work 'off the clock?'

Your boss has a habit of telling you he needs you to stay an extra half hour or more to "finish up" whatever you're working on, but he tells you to clock out at 5:00 because the company has cracked down on overtime pay. Maybe your boss tells you at 4:55 p.m. on Friday that you did something wrong and have to stay late to fix it. However, she says you can't show on your timesheet that you worked overtime because it's your fault that you didn't get it right the first time.

These are just a couple of examples of employees being expected to work "off the clock." For many people, such as those who are hourly or non-exempt workers, it's illegal. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires that non-exempt employees be paid overtime when they work over 40 hours a week.

In a few states, anything over eight hours a day is considered overtime. In New Jersey, as in most states, there are no daily overtime regulations. However, any amount of time a person works over 40 hours in a week is considered overtime and compensated at "time and a half."

Sometimes employers don't understand how overtime laws work. They may believe, for example, that if an employee volunteers to stay late, they don't have to pay them overtime. That's not true. Overtime is overtime -- no matter the circumstances.

Employees may even be entitled to recover up to three years worth of overtime wages, plus damages and attorneys fees. However, that requires filing a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor. Many employees don't want to risk losing their job, so they go along with their employers' illegal practices.

Not all employees are eligible for overtime pay. For example, if you're a salaried employee or work in an exempted occupation like a supervisory position or outside sales, you have to put in whatever hours are needed. You aren't paid on an hourly basis, so you don't get overtime pay.

If your boss has a habit of expecting you to work overtime without counting it as such, it may be wise to remind them that you are supposed to be accurately reporting your work hours. If that doesn't help and the situation continues, it may be worthwhile to talk with an attorney to discuss your options.

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