I feel a sense of injustice every time I hear about employees working “off the clock.” Not paying workers for all of the hours they worked not only harms the workers, but also their families by depriving them of the wages they need to get by — not to mention it steals the time they could be spending with their families. Unfortunately, I have seen that working “off the clock” is all too common for workers in my home state of Mississippi.
Making employees work “off the clock” also violates federal labor law. My agency, the Wage and Hour Division, is responsible for enforcing the law. Ensuring that workers receive a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work is a responsibility my team and I take seriously.
During a recent investigation by my office in Jackson, Mississippi, we discovered that Pilot Travel Center employees were working through lunch, without pay — that means they were regularly not receiving five hours of pay each week. Because of our investigation, the employees received $141, 096 in back wages and liquidated damages. We also found identical violations at the company’s five other locations, which have been corrected.
It is humbling to be able to assist workers in getting back the money they rightfully earned. Being paid for all hours makes a meaningful difference in the lives of employees who, in many cases, can just barely make ends meet as it is. One Pilot Travel Center employee, Gina Franklin, used the back wages to make badly needed repairs to her car and catch up on unpaid bills. Another employee, Terry Ward, used her back pay to pay medical bills. Yet another worker, Lee Ann Fulks, did the same, and was even able to start a “rainy day” savings account. LaTosha McGriggs, an employee who was pregnant during the investigation, was able to move to a larger apartment and purchase essential items for her new baby. Another worker was able to save her home from foreclosure. These are all reasons why I want to come to work each day!
The vast majority of employers want to comply with the law, and we provide assistance to help them do so. We urge them all, large and small, to review their pay practices to make sure that their employees are paid for all the hours they work and know their basic workplace rights.
Employers and employees can call the Wage and Hour Division’s toll-free helpline in confidentiality at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). More information about workers’ rights and employers’ responsibilities also is available at www.dol.gov/whd.