People often think of the minimum wage as a restriction on employers "” that they cannot pay less than a certain number for a job. But it is also equally a restriction on job seekers "” my son cannot legally offer to take a job for less than $7.25, even though he would probably gladly do so. For teenagers, just gaining the experience of working and building basic skills (like showing up on time, following procedures, interacting with customers and fellow employees) has enormous value, such that even a nominal payment of a few dollars an hour would more than compensate him for his labor.
Ann Althouse has found the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which contains the minimum wage, also can lead to restrictions on employee behavior:
Everyone at The University of Wisconsin will have their pay cut by about 3% and will be "furloughed""”told they do not have to work"”for a corresponding period of time. But it turns out that we not only don't have to work, we are being told we cannot work. The guidelines ban any kind of work during furloughs, anywhere. This means that even if you are at home you are not supposed to read professional material, get and send emails, make calls, use a smart phone, etc. Employees who violate the work ban can be disciplined.
She goes on to describe her voyage of discovery as to why so irrational-sounding a policy might exist, but I alredy knew. To furlough exempt (meaning exempt from hourly bookkeeping) workers, they must become non-exempt. And non-exempt workers have to be paid for time worked, even if the time worked was not ordered by the employer and even if the time worked was against the wishes of the employer.
We face this situation all the time. We have hourly workers in campgrounds. Unlike in a factory (for which the FLSA was written and where there are fairly strict controls on how people work), my campground workers have a lot of leeway to set their own schedule and determine their work patterns. But I have to set very clear guidelines - "at the end of the day you have to get x and y and z done and you are not authorized to work more than t hours doing it."
But we nearly always have folks who want to go do whatever they want to do. I had an employee who loved to arrange river rocks around camp sites as borders after he had finished his other work. His work looked really nice. But I could not afford to pay him to arrange river rocks around camp sites. His manager told him to stop. He kept doing it. You know what? I still had to pay him for his time to arrange river rocks, despite the fact the company had specifically told him not to and despite the fact that this time exceeded the guidelines I gave him (once his work exceeds X hours, he has to get management permission to work more in a certain time period). In fact, the only way I eventually was able to stop paying him to arrange river rocks at work was to fire him.