Late-night emails might entitle workers to overtime

These days, many employees feel like they’re never really “off the clock.” They’re expected to check e-mails at home, and occasionally to respond to emergency text messages from their boss or co-workers.

But the truth is, many workers in this situation might literally be “on the clock.” If they’re expected to check texts and e-mails at night in addition to working full-time during regular hours, they might be eligible for overtime.

For example, a group of salespeople at T-Mobile stores brought a lawsuit complaining that they had been given BlackBerry devices and were expected to answer e-mails and texts from other staffers and from customers outside of regular business hours. T-Mobile settled their claims for overtime pay.

These types of lawsuits could become much more common now that President Obama has proposed making workers earning up to $50,440 – including salaried workers and those classified as “managers” – eligible for overtime, up from the current threshold of $23,660. This change would make overtime available to a large number of employees who are currently expected to be available around the clock.