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Employers have burden to prove employee hours fell short of FMLA requirements

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in FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

If you don’t track hours worked (for example, if you have exempt employees who come and go as they please), you may find yourself in hot water if you claim an employee hasn’t worked enough hours to be eligible for FMLA leave.

The FMLA regulations make it clear that if “an employer does not maintain accurate records of hours worked by an employee … the employer has the burden of showing that the employee has not worked the requisite hours.” In other words, be prepared to show exactly how many hours your employees worked.

Recent case: The school that employed Melissa Jeffries full time turned her down for FMLA leave because it said she hadn’t worked more than 1,250 hours in the last year. Jeffries sued, alleging the school district didn’t track hours, and that all the time she spent grading papers at home should be added to the total.

The court refused to dismiss the case and ordered more discovery. The school district will have to convince the court that Jeffries worked fewer than 1,250 hours, while Jeffries will try to prove the hours she spent grading papers and otherwise working for the district after her classroom hours. (Jeffries v. The School Board of Collier County, No. 2:06-CV-240, MD FL, 2007)

Advice: It’s a good idea to track hours worked for all employees, not just hourly workers. If, for example, it turns out you misclassified an hourly worker as exempt and she sues for overtime pay, you will want to show exactly how many hours she worked.

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