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Can you check your work email when you’re off the clock?

Email is a primary form of communication in many businesses. While phone calls were at one point, the traceable trail that comes with email makes it preferable. Employees may have email addresses from their company that they can check from anywhere. Many keep their work email accounts on their personal computer or phone. However, there are times when being able to access the email account away from the office might cause a problem.

People have become so accustomed to the “right now” way of life that they may feel pressured to respond to emails as soon as they get them. This may lead some hourly employees to open work emails and reply to them even though they aren’t on the clock. What they might not realize is that this could violate the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Nonexempt employees must be paid for the time they’re working

Answering a work email is considered a work duty. Employers can’t expect nonexempt employees to do these duties in their non-working hours. In the viewpoint of the law, answering a work email is the same thing as sitting at your desk doing your work. You must be paid for the time it takes to do any work-related task.

Employers should have a policy that nonexempt employees only answer emails when they’re on the clock. If you receive a message after hours, you shouldn’t be expected to reply to it until you’re back on the clock. This includes emails you receive if you’re on a leave, which you wouldn’t have to answer until you return to work.

Employees deserve to be paid for all the time they work. While it might not seem like you’re giving away too much time to just check a work email, that time does add up. You have the right to speak out about your rights and even to take legal action to get the wages you’re do for those off-the-clock emails without fear of retaliation.

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