Angry man with cellphoneQ. Our company provides remote access to e-mail for all employees, and some of our hourly employees carry iPhones and Blackberries with access to their work e-mail. Most non-exempt employees only work during regular business hours, but some will occasionally check and respond to e-mail after hours or on weekends. Do we need to pay employees for this time? If so, how do we track it?

A. Yes, employees need to be paid for time spent reading or responding to work-related e-mail. If this occurs only sporadically and the time involved is truly de minimus – for example, if the employee occasionally types out “Thanks” or “OK” in response to a short message – it may not be an issue. However, if you do not have any mechanism for employees to track and report this time, you may have no way to prove that the time spent was in fact minimal. When a disgruntled current or former employee files a complaint asserting that they worked an hour or two extra every week for three years, will you be able to prove otherwise?


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On May 9, 2011, the U.S. Department of Labor proudly announced its new time-tracking app for the iPhone, which Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis touted as an “invaluable” tool for the Wage & Hour Division in cases where employers failed to keep accurate records. The announcement certainly got the attention of blogging labor and employment law bloggers – see below for a few of the many posts on this. 

Ironically, the app that’s designed to allow hourly employees to keep track of their hours and pay doesn’t accurately calculate either in accordance with the Department of Labor’s regulations. 


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