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More OT lawsuits? There’s an app for that

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in Compensation and Benefits,Human Resources,Overtime Labor Laws

Overtime lawsuits often come down to a question of exactly how many hours the employee actually worked. Last month, U.S. employees gained a powerful new tool to prove their cases: the new “Timesheet” app for smartphones from the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Divi­sion.

The free app—available in English and Spanish—lets people track their hours worked and wages owed, including break times and overtime hours. Users can view a summary of hours in daily, weekly or monthly formats, plus e-mail the summary as an attachment (to their lawyers?).

“This app will help empower workers to understand and stand up for their rights when employers have denied their hard-earned pay,” says DOL Secretary Hilda Solis.

The app is compatible with the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. The DOL is looking to create similar versions on other platforms, such as BlackBerry and Android. Plus, the DOL plans to add other pay features, such as tips, bonuses and shift differentials. The app can be downloaded at www.dol.gov/whd.  

Impact: This is more incentive for employers to accurately track em­­ployees’ actual hours worked—not just hours written on a time sheet. This new government-endorsed tool would serve as powerful evidence in an employee’s wage-and-hour case.

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Potential problems: The app could be abused if ­workers “clock in” on the app before their actual start time or fail to accurately record unpaid breaks.

Plus, the app could create confusion if your organization has a legal time-rounding system in place. As law firm Littler Mendelson notes, “Because the app does not provide for rounding, in such instances, there may be discrepancies between the amount of time recorded by an employee (and the amount of wages calculated by the app to be due) and the employer’s time records.”

Employers should be aware of these issues if an em­­ployee tries to use app data as evidence of unpaid overtime. In fact, the app itself includes a disclaimer saying, “Some situations not addressed in this App may yield a different result in the calculation of pay.”

Final tip: Don’t try to prohibit employees from using the app on personal smartphones. Its use may constitute “protected activity” under the Fair Labor Standards Act. But you can enforce existing IT policies regarding downloading of apps on company devices.

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