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Don’t let court take employee’s word on hours

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in Human Resources,Overtime Labor Laws

Here’s a case that should send chills down your spine if you don’t keep meticulous records of every hour worked. A court has allowed a case to proceed based on little more than a worker’s vague allegation that she wasn’t paid overtime for hours in excess of 40 per week.

That leaves it up to the employer to disprove the allegation with solid time records.

Recent case: Joyce lost her job shortly after returning from FMLA leave to have surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome.

She sued for a long list of perceived wrongs. Her claims included the allegation that over the previous year, she hadn’t been paid for about 310 hours of overtime she claimed she had put in to keep up with the workload. She alleged she had asked her supervisor several times to look into the pay issue.

Joyce did not, however, provide any kind of detailed records of when she worked the overtime hours. The employer asked the court to toss out the case as vague and unspecific.

The court refused. It reasoned that Joyce had alleged a total number of unpaid hours within a specific time frame and that the hours came after she already had worked her standard 40-hour week. That was enough to move the case to the next step, where the employer will have to produce its time records. That’s because the Fair Labor Standards Act requires employers to track hours worked; presumably, therefore, they will always have the records to show who worked when and for how long. (Alston v. Becton, Dickinson & Company, No. 1-12-CV-452, MD NC, 2013)

Final note: Don’t forget that employees may be comparing your time records with theirs, too—using smartphone apps developed by the U.S. De­­part­­ment of Labor.

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