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Keep exact timecards, or court will use worker’s estimate

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in Leaders & Managers,Management Training

Here’s an incentive to make sure you account for every hour your nonexempt employees work: If an employee claims you didn’t pay her what you were supposed to, and you don’t have accurate time records, the court will calculate what you owe based on the number of hours the employee tells the court she worked.

That calculation could be way off, an estimate that far exceeds actual hours worked. That means a large overtime tab that could grow substantially larger if the court orders the double damages commonly available under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Recent case: Vivian Brown worked for the Family Dollar Stores chain, first as a cashier and stock person and later as an assistant manager. She lost that job after about nine months and sued for unpaid wages and overtime.

She told the court that supervisors routinely altered the time sheets she turned in and that her paychecks were frequently short. She testified that management often manipulated time records in the computer system.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals said that employers that don’t keep the accurate time records required by the FLSA can’t expect their employees to prove what hours they worked.

Instead, the appeals court directed the trial court to work from the employee’s estimate of the hours, and then look at other possible evidence, such as the store’s operating hours, how long it typically takes to open and close the stores and any special sales or holiday hours the store kept. (Brown v. Family Dollar Stores, No. 06-3529, 7th Cir., 2008)

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