Aren't there rules in place that would disallow an employee from putting in work hours that he/she is not getting paid for (even if it is done willingly and without "obvious" encouragement from the employer)? Isn't this a liability issue similar to the practice of not paying for drive time in a company vehicle? What happens if something bad occurs while this person is "off the clock"? A fellow employee starts his work day on the job site 30-60 minutes early most every day without making note of it on his timecard. It is probably no coincidence that he was one of the very few people at our company that did not get laid off last year for a substantial amount of time. What's next...a bidding war to see who is willing to put in the largest amount of strait time hours over 40 per week? I often do print work and planning at home on my own time just to feel ready and confident for the next day but there should always be compensation for job site work.
Greg is absolutely correct as to what the 'law' says. Nor is an unhappy person the only way the apple cart can become upset; any accident will raise the issue.
That said, let's take a reality check. As a rule, employment is AT WILL, and this is a society based upon merit and compteition, not 'rights' and entitlements. Also, in the grand scheme of things, the massive bureaucracies have less than zero interest in the operations of a five-man shop.
After all, what is 'work?' Many employers expect you to be AT your station, READY to work, at starting time. This position is completely acceptable under the law. That to do so means you need to change clothes, organize your tools, etc., before starting time is not relevant. Ditto regarding breaks and lunchtime.
So, what 'check' is there? The most obvious is that you vote with your feet - go elsewhere. You owe the bum nothing. Hard times? Not relevant. (I suspect that any employer who uses the current economy to lord it over his crew will have a rude wake-up call the moment another opportunity arises).
The other option is to act together with your fellow employees - that is, to form or join a union. While this is not a forum where we discuss the ins and outs of unions, it is -at least in theory- an attempt to deal with the exact sort of issues you mention.
I am lucky in the sense that my boss pays me when I step into the truck to leave until the truck gets back. We are expected 15 minutes early to load the truck and 5-15 minutes after to unload which isnt paid but in the grand scheme of things isnt too bad.
I have heard from pretty much everyone that we are the exception and not the norm. A few of my friends do not get paid driving time in the company truck, and if you get a week of short service calls then you spend 40 hours at work and get paid 30....
I dont know what I would do in those situations, because walking off the job is a possibility, but there are 5 guys waiting to take my job.
US labor law says that if I require you to report to the shop to pick up a company vehicle then you get paid for driving from the shop to the job and then from the job to the shop.If you take the truck home then you get paid from the time you arrive at the job until you leave the job.
Hourly workers should get paid for their time on the job, otherwise they should be salaried. That said, hours on the clock can be totally different than hours of accomplished work performed. When I was hourly, I did't work over on the clock (considered casual OT), and yes was considered a liability if off the clock. I made it through layoffs by consistantly getting expected work completed.
I am curious as to how does it work with salaried employees, of which I am one. Although I know what my hours are, there have been times I have stayed over to finish a job, rather than come in to it in the morning, or to keep production running.
In theory a salaried worker is supposed to be "management" and all of the "labor" are supposed to be hourly but this regularly gets abused. There have been quite a number of court decisions about this. (and one recent work place shooting) Unfortunately, without a direct complaint to the labor board, which could be career damaging, there is not much you can do about it. You could get famous though, as party to a suit. I suppose it all comes down to what your main job function is. If you are the lead man who does more pointing and directing than actually wiring, you could be called a manager.