Every business has its unique quirks, and workers have to find ways to make corporate concepts apply in real-world settings. That could mean finding ways to cope with having far too little staff during busy times or adjusting standard practices for unique concerns based on your location or community.

Often, a big part of job training is learning about the informal rules and expectations at a new company. For people who work in retail and service industries in particular, some of those informal expectations may include unpaid labor or working off the clock.

While the boss may not formally request it, the trainer or manager may instruct you to clock out before doing cleaning or prep work for the next shift. They may also ask you to clock out a few minutes before the end of your shift but continue working to help them control costs. Is it legal for employers to have their staff work off the clock?

Demanding unpaid work is a violation of employee rights

The most basic tenet of an employment arrangement is that a company will compensate a worker a specific amount for the job that they perform for the company. In other words, receiving pay as promised in full is arguably the most basic right of a modern American worker.

Companies that expect or demand unpaid labor violate the rights of their workers and federal employment laws. Documenting this behavior or the consequences you suffer when you refuse to comply with requests for unpaid labor can help you hold a company accountable for taking advantage of its workers and help you connect with the wages you should have earned.