Sometimes, supervisors get the wrong message from upper-level managers struggling to keep a business afloat during difficult times.
Faced with declining revenues and staff shortages that mean more overtime hours, they may be tempted to adjust time records to reflect fewer hours worked.
But this is a dangerous tactic. It’s also illegal, and attorney’s that troll for get-rich-quick cases start drooling as soon as they hear allegations that someone has been altering time records. It’s very easy for underpaid employees to find a lawyer willing to file an overtime class-action lawsuit.
If the violations are “willful,” the back pay award may go back three full years. Plus, penalties equal to the amount underpaid will be added to each employee’s total tab.
Recent case: When Vinicio went to work for a restaurant chain and the owners learned he spoke English, he was assigned a role that included dishwashing, serving food, ordering supplies—and managing therecords.
He was allegedly told to cut reported worked hours to no more than 35 per week per employee even if those employees worked as many as 70 hours during the pay period. That meant many employees were grossly underpaid since their paychecks didn’t accurately reflect their hours worked.
Vinicio and several other employees sued, alleging overtime violations.
The court reviewed the allegations and approved a class-action lawsuit. It ordered the chain to notify every employee who had worked for the restaurants in the past three years about the lawsuit, explaining their right to join in the class action. (Ortiz-Alvarado, et al., v. Gomez, et al., No. 14-209, DC MN, 2014)