Time-Card-iStock_000016412520XSmall.jpgIn a recent blog post, Wage and Hour Administrator David Weil tries to underplay employer concerns about the new overtime exemption rules, including worries about the difficulty of tracking time for employees who are not used to recording their hours, stating:

There’s no requirement that employees “punch in” and “punch out.” Employers have flexibility in designing systems to make sure appropriate records are kept to track the number of hours worked each day.

And in the DOL’s information sheets for higher education institutions and non-profit organizations (.pdfs) regarding the new rules, the Department suggests two alternatives to the traditional punch clock setup:

o For employees who work a fixed schedule that rarely varies, the employer may simply keep a record of the schedule and indicate the number of hours the worker actually worked only when the worker varies from the schedule.

o For an employee with a flexible schedule, an employer does not need to require an employee to sign in each time she starts and stops work. The employer must keep an accurate record of the number of daily hours worked by the employee. So an employer could allow an employee to just provide the total number of hours she worked each day, including the number of overtime hours, by the end of each pay period.

The Department is of course correct that either of these methods – the “payroll by exception” approach or the peroding time sheet – can be a permissible method of tracking employee time. The FLSA regulations don’t mandate any particular method of tracking employee time. They require only that the record be accurate. But it’s this mandate for accuracy that makes payroll by exception and time sheets a potentially dangerous way to approach timekeeping under the FLSA.


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Close up of lights on police carIf a tree falls in the forest but there is no one around to hear, does it make a sound? If a non-exempt worker answers an e-mail message after hours on her Blackberry but fails to put in for overtime, has she performed compensable work? While I’m not aware of any firm legal authority on the first question, a recent ruling by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois offers a detailed and instructive analysis of the second. 

In Allen v. City of Chicago, a group of 51 of current and former officers in the Chicago Police Department’s Bureau of Organized Crime (“BOC”)  alleged that the City willfully violated the FLSA by requiring them to use their Blackberry devices for work-related communications while they were off duty without compensation. 


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Time Card iStock_000016412520XSmall.jpgLast summer, we highlighted an example of how good recordkeeping practices can result in a favorable decision. In the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan case, the employer successfully defended an “unauthorized overtime” claim where an employee worked off the clock against Kaiser’s policies and without its knowledge. A recent Eleventh Circuit decision demonstrates the limits of

Call center operatorLast week, the U.S. Department of Labor announced a settlement with Hilton Reservations Worldwide, LLC, in which the company agreed to pay $715,507 in minimum wages and overtime pay to 2,645 current and former customer service employees in Texas, Florida, Illinois and Pennsylvania. The DOL determined after an audit that the company failed to pay

Man with laptop working lateHas something like this ever happened in your organization? You have a solid non-exempt employee working hard on a project. His supervisor is out of town and unreachable. In the supervisor’s absence, to get the job done, he works a few hours of overtime. When the supervisor gets back, he asks if she will approve

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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