Every manager loves an employee who gives extra effort—the type who will come in early or stay late to finish a project. Sometimes, managers even write such praise into.
But, as this new case shows, managers should be careful about praising hourly employees for their off-the-clock efforts. Workers can use those comments in an overtime-pay lawsuit as proof that the company not only knew of the extra hours, but also condoned them.
Recent case: A group of Los Angeles County public safety employees filed a lawsuit for unpaid overtime. The hourly workers claimed they hadn’t been paid for extra time they worked before and after their shifts when they checked e-mail, had briefings and completed reports.
The county claimed it had no idea about the work … buttold a different story. The employees had regularly been praised for their extra (unpaid) work.
That was enough for the court to conclude the violations might be willful, extending the back pay claim from two years to three. (Vallerand, et al., v. County of Los Angeles, et al., No. CV08-5057, CD CA, 2010)