Can my employer force me to stay late and then cut hours later to avoid overtime but allow other shifts to leave on time?

I work overnight for a national retail chain. It’s my first real job so there are a few things I’m not too sure of. Mainly this issue of hours. Me and the other stockers are scheduled to work from 10 pm to 6 am. At the beginning of the night during the meeting management will tell us we aren’t allowed to work over our scheduled hours. Then they’ll turn around and tell us not to leave until

they give us permission. Whenever 6 am comes and I’ve finished everything I was assigned to do I’ll ask if I can leave. I’m told no and that I have to go help someone who isn’t done. This process repeats again and again until everything is done, which isn’t until after 7 am. There have been times when we aren’t released until after 8:30. Then the next night or another night before the end of the week we’ll be told we have to wait before clocking in so we can cut that

extra hour or so that we worked over the morning before so we won’t be paid

more than we were scheduled to be paid. This naturally causes work the

night to fall behind and we leave late again. What makes it more aggravating

is that overnight is the only shift this is done to. The other 2 shifts 5am to

2 pm and 2 pm to 11 pm are allowed to leave as soon as the scheduled time

comes no matter how much of their work is done. The majority of the time

we have to finish whatever the evening crew didn’t as well as whatever was

brought in for us. And the crew that comes in the morning has their own jobs to do so we don’t get help from them either. Some of the older employees say this is illegal on the company’s part. I’ve tried looking on the department of labor website but can’t find anything specific. Whether it’s illegal or not it’s just plain wrong. Is it legal? Whether it is or not, what can I do about it whit hour risking my job?

Asked on March 14, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Louisiana

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

There is no law requiring employers to treat all employees or all shifts the same--some can be asked to work more or differently than others. An employer can have you stay or work late whenever they want; they can then cut your hours later in the week so as to keep you under 40 hours and avoid paying overtime. The only thing they can't do is have you work "off the clock": if you are working, the time must be counted for both base pay and, as appropriate, overtime--there is no such thing as legal off the clock work.


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