Time Clock Punching: Not to Be Overlooked

There’s a price to be paid for not requiring hourly employees to clock in and out of work warns our resident columnist Robin Paggi. A recent lawsuit making its way through the federal court system is a cautionary tale for employers.

Should You Require Hourly Employees To Punch the Clock?

In the article “Pros & Cons of a Time Clock in the Workplace” on https://smallbusiness.chron.com, the author states, “Employees who are required to punch a time clock are likely to believe that their employers do not trust them to accurately report their hours, and consequently they may feel that they are not sufficiently valued.” Maybe so; however, if you’re an employer who doesn’t require your hourly employees to clock in and out, you’ll want to read this.

The federal Fair Labor Standards Act requires employers to keep accurate information with respect to each employee including, among other things, time records showing when the employee begins and ends each work period. In the absence of such records, the employee’s testimony as to hours worked is presumed to be correct and the employer has the burden of proving they are not.

Zain and Zohaib Syed, who own and operate two auto repair shops in Michigan, recently learned this the hard way. They employed Jeffrey Moran as a mechanic at one of the shops from summer 2011 until spring 2013. According to court documents on www.courthousenews.com, Moran said he and Zohaib Syed agreed he would receive $300 per week in addition to “bonus type profit sharing” for working 58 hours during a six-day work week. The Syeds said Moran was hired to work only 30 hours a week for $300 weekly pay.

Moran said he usually worked 65 to 68 hours each week but did not receive any overtime or bonuses and complained numerous times to Zain Syed about it. The last time he complained, he was told to “either hit the road or stay working like it is.” He hit the road and sued for two violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act: failure to pay overtime and retaliation for requesting overtime pay.

The Syeds said Moran never worked more than 30 hours a week and could prove it. Although Moran did not clock in and out, they monitored his arrival and departure times on a security camera. They provided the court with time sheets that included the total number of hours Moran worked each day along with a weekly total for every week he was employed, which is what they’re supposed to have on hand. However, the court noted that, according to the timesheets, in all but five of the ninety weeks Moran was employed, he worked exactly thirty hours a week, despite his schedule varying notably from week to week, which looked suspicious.

A district court found in favor of the Syeds. However, in June an appellate court reversed that decision saying that the timesheets did not amount to objective incontrovertible evidence of the hours that Moran worked. Additionally, while Moran’s testimony of his hours worked might lack precision, employees are not required to recall their schedules with perfect accuracy. The case was remanded for further proceedings.

So, should you require your hourly employees to punch the clock? Yes.

Robin Paggi is the Training Coordinator at Worklogic HR.

Robin last wrote for us on HR issues in entertainment news and before that on lessons learned from a recent high-profile retaliation lawsuit. Before that she wrote about a Facebook photo that promoted a firing and before that on making it OK for employees to ask for your help and before that on working in Family-Run Businesses. Before that she wrote on There’s More to Motivating Than Money;  Love at Work: How Should Employers Respond, and prior to that about lessons for employers in the Brian Williams matter.  Prior to that she wrote about giving employees a second chance. Before that she wrote about making sure the applicant is a good fit for the job and before that about  cure for inappropriate behavior at work. Before that she wrote about cyberloafing, on business lessons from a Christmas story and before that about cell phone policies at work. She has also written for us on rules for holiday parties at work and before that about preventing workplace bullying.

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