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Should we allow employees to use DOL’s timekeeping app for smartphones?

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in Office Management,Payroll Management

Q. We have heard that the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has issued a timekeeping app that allows employees to track their time on smartphones. Should we permit employees to use this in our workplace?

A. The DOL has indeed issued an application for use on Apple iPhones so workers can track their hours worked. It’s basically an interactive time sheet that lets employees use their phones to record when they clock in and out for shifts and breaks. (Take a look at the app here.)

When the app was first introduced, some ­employers saw this as a radical change to their record-keeping requirements. The reality is, this app should have little effect on most employers’ day-to-day operations.

First, the app simply allows employees to track their hours worked, which is really nothing new. Employees have been able to track their hours worked all along, using their computers or even the back of an envelope. They just haven’t been able to do it on a mobile device.

Second, the app can be easily manipulated and modified to the point that most employers should be able to challenge the legitimacy and accuracy of the records. For example, if an employee forgets to clock out or makes an error, the app allows a manual override and a manual change to the employee’s clock-in or clock-out time. The app does not appear to track these modifications or changes.

Third, contrary to some people’s initial concerns, the DOL cannot track employee’s use of the app for enforcement purposes.

Don’t overreact if you learn that employees are using the timekeeping app. Unless the employee is violating your policy by using the app (having a mobile device in an unauthorized work area), we recommend that em­­ployers not draw attention to use of the app.

Certainly don’t take any disciplinary action against an employee for using it. Any adverse action for using the app could result in a retaliation claim.

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