Wage and Hour Headaches for Employers: The Department of Labor Has an App for That
The U.S. Department of Labor Wage & Hour Division (“WHD”) recently released a free application (“app”) for iPhone and iPod Touch that allows employees to track their wages and work hours. The “Timesheet” app allows employees to enter their hourly rate and hours worked for multiple employers. The app also lets employees record time spent on meal breaks and “other” breaks. Time can be recorded manually or by using the app’s embedded stopwatch. Timesheet calculates employee pay, including overtime, and lets employees export Timesheet data via e-mail in Microsoft Excel format. While the current version calculates pay based on an hourly rate, WHD is exploring the possibility of adding functions for commission pay, shift differentials and other methods of compensation in future versions, along with Android- and Blackberry-compatibility. The app currently is available in both English and Spanish.
Timesheet presents a number of challenges to employers. WHD perceives the app as an enforcement aid that contains potentially “invaluable” information about alleged hours worked. Timesheet also encourages employees to file claims by giving them contact information for both local and national wage and hour agencies. Furthermore, employee complaints about pay for alleged “off-the-clock” work—such as voluntarily checking work e-mails when at home—may increase as such time can be easily recorded. Employees might also record any work issues raised during break time, raising the specter of employers having to treat that time as compensable “hours worked.” Finally, employees improperly classified as exempt and for whom the employer kept no time records would now have “documentation” to support their damage claims.
Fortunately, employers can take steps to protect themselves:
- Keep accurate records. This obvious best practice has only become more important now that some employees may keep records of their own.
- Require non-exempt employees to sign off on company time sheets. This will help ensure both sides agree on the number of hours worked, and can help wage and hour disagreements surface—and get resolved—sooner rather than later.
- Audit exempt employees to make sure they are exempt. This is particularly true for employees for whom the company has limited time records
- Update employee handbooks. Make sure employees know that they cannot falsify any company records, including time records. Also consider establishing a complaint process for employees to use when they are told not to report work time.
- Do not retaliate against employees who keep their own time records. Retaliation claims are on the rise, and Timesheet is another possible pitfall for employers.
“Timesheet” should serve as a reminder of the importance of maintaining complete, accurate wage and hour records.