The Fair Labor Standards Act () says employers must pay overtime to hourly employees who work more than 40 hours per week. Work time includes more than just the hours you put on the employee’s schedule—it also includes any time you “permitted” the employee to work outside the schedule. And therein lies a big overtime headache.
Employers who know their employees are putting in additional time shouldn’t look the other way. Nor should they demand time sheets reflecting just their scheduled hours. In fact, telling employees to do just that can be used as proof that employers knew employees were working without being paid.
That’s why you must tell all managers and supervisors to insist employees turn in time sheets reflecting actual hours worked, even if those hours exceed scheduled time.
Courts come down hard on employers who ignore unpaid hours. The end result may be a huge back-pay award, plus legal bills.
Recent case: When a group of secretaries, custodians and bus monitors sued their school district employer, they told the court they were not allowed to turn in accurate time sheets. Instead, they had to put down only the hours listed on their schedules even if they worked longer. Plus, they testified that they often worked through lunch without pay. When employees tried to list the extra hours on their time sheets, supervisors tore up the sheets.
The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals said the employer clearly knew what was going on or it couldn’t have told employees to redo time sheets to match their schedules. Because it knew, it essentially permitted the employees to work extra hours. That’s time that should have been paid. The court also said it’s up to the employer to make sure payroll records are accurate. It sent the case back to determine how much the district may owe. (Allen, et al., v. Board of Public Education, No. 06-12131, 11th Cir., 2007)
Final tip: How do you prevent employees from working more hours than you schedule? Discipline employees who come in early or work late. It’s insubordination to ignore the schedule.