3 FLSA Employee Time Tracking Mistakes Corrected with Better Communication
By: Shannon Corgan, Director of Marketing
It’s surprising how quickly an employee time tracking error can snowball into a much larger and much more expensive issue if you’re not following the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). One of the seven FLSA fails for employee time tracking revolves around accurately tracking employees’ time when they are taking breaks. Last month, a Memphis meat packing company learned this lesson at a pretty high cost, but the same principle can apply to any industry. They asked their employees to end their lunch breaks five minutes early to go back to work without paying them for their five minutes of work. During those five minutes, they asked their employees to wash their hands, stand in a foot bath and to change into their uniforms. These were important tasks that the employees needed to do their job; the problem was that their work was uncompensated.
So, you may be thinking, okay, the employees didn’t document their time correctly and five minutes can’t be that big of a deal, right? You might think it would amount to a few thousand dollars. Well, we’d both be wrong. The five minutes a day for each of the days the 272 employees worked added up and also put some employees into overtime. This resulted in a Department of Labor award of $127,830 in back pay and liquidated damages to the 272 employees for violating the FLSA. All of this could have been avoided if the HR team had clearly communicated and educated the supervisors and employees about the rules for employee time tracking for breaks. In addition, there are two other FLSA errors related to employee time tracking that can easily be avoided with clear communication and education for your employees and supervisors to avoid costly fines and unanticipated wage payments for back pay and overtime. Here are a few things that your supervisors and employees can do to make sure that you’re paying your employees what they have legally earned for all their hours worked:
1. Working On Break – If your supervisors or managers interrupt an employee’s unpaid break to ask them to return to work, many times employees forget to change their clock in time. They’re used to writing their lunch hour from 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm and don’t update their employee time records to show they actually started work again at 12:55 pm. Supervisors should remind employees to clock back in before they start working if the supervisor asks them to come back from lunch early. The other option is to not interrupt their lunch break and ask the employee to see you when they’re done. We all know taking breaks makes employees more productive and happy.
2. Work Before/After Shift- If an hourly employee’s normal shift is 8 AM to 5 PM and you ask them to come early to work or stay late, make sure you’re telling them to clock in when they start work and clock out when they end work. One of the seven FLSA fails for employee time tracking is that employees don’t include the time they work before their shift starts and/or after their shift ends. Make sure that you’re always encouraging your employees to accurately tracking their time. When supervisors have an automated employee time tracking solution like WorkMax TIME available from their mobile devices, they don’t have to worry about employees going into overtime. They can see in real time how many hours their employees are working.
3. Paying Travel Time to/from Shop to Job Site – For many industries, you may need employees to go to a location away from their assigned job site for the day to pick up or drop off items. When employees are traveling from the shop to pick up to tools or equipment, make sure they are including the travel time from the shop to the job site for accurate employee time tracking and FLSA compliance. If you ask your employees to drop off tools at the shop after their regular shift hours, remind them to make sure they clock out after they drop off the tools to shop. Driving to pick up items to perform their job or that are duties that are part of their job is considered work and your employees need to be legally paid for their time. According to the Department of Labor, you are required to pay employees for time spent traveling during normal work hours.
So many of your employee time tracking issues can be easily be taken care of by clearly communicating with your employees and supervisors that you want to pay them accurately for all the time that they work. Make sure your hourly employees know that they need to be on the clock whenever they are performing work. If not, these employee time tracking oversights can quickly snowball into very expensive Department of Labor investigations where you could be forced to pay back pay, overtime, and fines for violating the FLSA.
For companies with a mobile workforce, you should consider using an automated employee time tracking solution to build in some a more systematic approach to solving your FLSA employee time tracking issues. It’s tough to get all of your employees and supervisors on the same page when it comes to tracking time. By using WorkMax TIME and WorkMax FORMS together you can prompt your employees with questions before they clock IN/OUT for the day to ensure they are correctly tracking their time. Check out our next blog to learn how you can use WorkMax TIME with WorkMax FORMS to build in checks and balances for the ultimate time tracking accuracy.