In 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.