The bar in California, where I work, closes at midnight. We start cleaning (bar, kitchen, bathrooms, dishes) before we close, but only if it's not too busy. Once midnight hits, it takes 30 minutes to clear everyone out before we can start reconciling our banks/drawers (finding the mistakes on credit cards, etc.). Some nights cleaning and reconciliation don't finish before 3:00 am.

Fewer than 25 people work at this bar.

Is my boss legally allowed to stop paying us at midnight?

(Side note: we're paid $11 per hour, not the legally required $13.25 per hour.)

  • 9
    If you're unionised, contact your union.
    – gerrit
    Commented Aug 20, 2019 at 7:34
  • 9
    In principle, the boss is only required to pay you for work they ordered you to do. Please clarify whether you were instructed to clean up after work, or whether you at least discussed this with your boss. What was the answer?
    – sleske
    Commented Aug 20, 2019 at 8:10
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    If you aren't being paid, then your not working and you should stop cleaning after hours because theres a chance workplace insurance won't cover you. Of course you and I know thats bulls___t and you are working, so yeah, lay that option on your boss that either the cleaning is not done OR it is in fact working and therefore paid. (IANAL but a friend did exactly this and it got results fast, however if you have a union or some access to a lawyer you'll want to hit them up on how valid this idea is in your juristiction)
    – Shayne
    Commented Aug 20, 2019 at 8:55
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    @DavidSiegel, the minimum wage in California varies by city. It may be $13.25 even though the state is lower. Commented Aug 20, 2019 at 13:51
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    @Barmar in California, the minimum wage for tipped positions is the same as the CA minimum wage $12/hr (for over 25 employees, $11/hr for fewer). Any tips earned belong to the employee and the employer is explicitly barred from including the tips toward the minimum wage pay. ref: [CA DIR][1] This just means, you get paid $12/hr + tips. [1]: dir.ca.gov/dlse/faq_minimumwage.htm
    – Shorlan
    Commented Aug 21, 2019 at 23:09

3 Answers 3


Unless you are a salaried worker, all hours worked must be paid, and that could include paying overtime if the actual hours that you work is over 40 hrs. a week. You may file a complaint with the US Dept. of Labor, and the boss may not fire you for complaining. Your state DoL may have even stiffer rules and penalties.

  • 56
    But your boss may fire you for "completely unrelated" reasons which could then cause another legal battle in its own right.
    – Tim B
    Commented Aug 20, 2019 at 10:35
  • 28
    A boss willing to break one law is willing to break the law against retaliation. And unless too uncreative to stay in business, able to invent a plausible reason.
    – WGroleau
    Commented Aug 20, 2019 at 15:00
  • This is why At Will Employement shouldnt be allowed.
    – GamerGypps
    Commented Feb 24, 2020 at 14:24

As I suspect you knew when you asked, she can't pay you less than the statutory minimum wage. She's also likely to lose on time you spend cleaning up after close. At least in California (you should always mention a jurisdiction), these are work hours.

Your state Labor Board, whatever it is called, would be a good first stop.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – feetwet
    Commented Aug 24, 2019 at 20:41

In the US, if you're an hourly employee, ALL work time must be paid. This includes time, if any, that you work without explicit authorization (of course, you can be fired if you work unauthorized hours, but you must still be paid for them). In addition, you are not allowed to "volunteer" to work unpaid time. This last provision is to prevent employers from pressuring employees to "volunteer" additional hours for free. Your timecard should accurately reflect your hours and you can not be asked to work off the clock. If you work more than 40 hours per week or (in California) 8 hours per day, you are entitled to overtime. There are some exceptions/exemptions to this, so you should research your specific situation on the California labor & workforce development web site.

You can also initiate a claim online for minimum wage/over-time violations going back three years. California would probably be a better starting point than the US Department of Labor. Even if you don't have the documentation to support your claim for backwages, you could probably get them to schedule a wage and hour audit of the employer.

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