August 20, 2010

Tick tock, we’re on the clock; Qwest employees’ FLSA claims allowed to proceed

Posted in Fair Labor Standards Act, Hours Worked, Hours Worked, Overtime, Personnel Records, Record Keeping tagged , , , , , at 9:29 am by Tom Jacobson

A July 20, 2010 decision by the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota stresses how important it is for employers to understand when their employees are “on the clock” and are, therefore, entitled to be paid.  The case also stresses every employer’s responsibility to maintain accurate records of their employees’ work time.

At issue in the case were two Qwest policies designed to gauge its technicians’ performance.  According to the technicians, in order for them to succeed under the policies, they had to work outside their regularly scheduled work day (for example, by coming in early in order to do the things required by the policies).   Therefore, they argued that under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), they should have been paid for that time, including any  overtime.

Qwest argued that because the technicians chose to work the extra hours in order to meet the company’s performance standards, the company did not have to pay them for that extra time.  The Court disagreed, saying “[t]he reason an employee continues to work beyond his shift is immaterial; if the employer knows or has reason to believe that the employee continues to work, the additional hours must be counted.'”

Qwest also argued that it should not be liable for the extra time worked because the employees failed to report it on their time sheets.  The Court rejected this argument as well, noting that it is the employer’s burden to maintain accurate time records even when employees are responsible for recording their own hours on a time sheet.

A few extra minutes of  unpaid work time may not seem like a big deal.  However, when those few minutes are added to the work-days of multiple employees over time, the consequences of the resulting FLSA violations are enormous.  Therefore, employers must understand when their employees are “on the clock,” and they must maintain accurate records of that work time.

The comments posted in this blog are for general informational purposes only. They are not to be considered as legal advice, and they do not establish an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice regarding your specific situation, please consult your attorney.
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