The key to complying with the Fair Labor Standards Act lies in accurate record-keeping. While the law requires you to keep reliable records, how you track hours is largely up to you. If your employees report to a fixed location, the easiest method involves using time clocks or sign-in/sign-out sheets. Just make sure that whatever method you use is accurate.
- Pay for all time worked, regardless of whether it’s authorized or required. So, if a supervisor looked the other way when an employee worked through a lunch break, you must pay for that time. It doesn’t matter if the work was voluntary; the employer knew about it and derived a benefit. Make sure supervisors understand this rule.
- Monitor break times. If your company automatically deducts time for meals but doesn’t require employees to clock in and out, make sure they are, in fact, not working.
- Be aware of off-premises work. In today’s plugged-in world, employers can easily become snagged by hourly employees claiming they should be paid for off-premises work performed on a home PC, cell phone or BlackBerry. Some may claim they worked during vacation or sick leave. What’s worse: They could have an electronic record of their work.
- Put a stop to ‘early clockers.’ Consider allowing only those who are clocked in to have access to the workplace. Or, use entry-access cards to control and record their entries and exits. Not only do such systems provide security, they also make it hard for someone to argue later that he or she continued working when electronic records show the exit time.
- Review your pay-for-lateness rules. For example, assume you keep time-clock records and discover a worker arrived 10 minutes late. You can deduct the 10 minutes from his or her total time, but you can’t have a rule stipulating that workers are paid from the closest quarter-hour of clocking in. That would mean the employee worked five minutes without being paid. A safer method: Allow a lateness leeway of 15 minutes and pay everyone who clocks in within that 15 minutes for the entire quarter-hour. That doesn’t mean you have to tolerate chronic tardiness. You can legitimately punish unreliability; just do it with , not by withholding pay for time actually worked.