You’ve finished cashing out your final tables for the night, and the flow of customers in to the restaurant where you work has begun to slow down. Your boss tells you it’s time to clock out, which you do. Then, he tells you to roll silverware for half an hour so that the next shift has enough ready to go in the morning.
Maybe you work in the kitchen. Your boss expects you to show up an hour before your scheduled start time to chop vegetables, brine meat or otherwise prepare food.
Many restaurants, both locally owned and corporate, will demand that workers do part of their job off the clock. While this may seem like a standard at your place of employment, that doesn’t make it acceptable. When your employer forces you to do work after clocking out, they steal wages from you that they have an obligation to pay.
Your employer is not entitled to get more work from you unless they pay you
Businesses have to balance their revenue on any given day with their costs. It is normal and acceptable for restaurants to send staff home early if sales are slow. It is not acceptable to demand that those workers perform unpaid labor to reduce how much the company has to pay in employment costs.
Both federal law and state legal precedent make it clear that workers should get paid for any tasks they do for the company that employs them. Even locking the doors and setting an alarm system should earn a worker pay, although companies often make them do these tasks after clocking out.
If you believe that your employer has habitually taken advantage of you and others by not paying you for work off the clock, you may need to bring a wage claim against the company to force them in to the fair treatment of their staff.