Employers have a legal obligation to pay nonexempt employees for all hours worked.
- The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is the federal statute that regulates wage and hour law.
- Some states have more stringent wage and hour laws than the FLSA.
- The FLSA:
- Requires payment of the federal minimum wage; and
- Guarantees compensation for all hours worked, including overtime at time and a half for all hours over 40 in a workweek.
- The FLSA does not define “hours worked.”
- However, that term generally includes all time during which an employee is required or allowed to work.
- Employers also are required to keep accurate time records.
Employers sometimes struggle with what constitutes hours worked.
- In particular, employers experience challenges related to:
- Rest breaks and meal breaks
- On-call time
- Travel time
- Time spent in training
The stakes are high for noncompliance.
- Employers that do not pay nonexempt employees for all hours worked risk having to pay back pay and penalties and being subject to lawsuits.
- The costs associated with noncompliance can add up, especially if violations occur over an extended period of time and a significant number of employees are impacted.
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Watch for “red flags” that nonexempt employees might be working off the clock.
Those red flags include:
- Employees eating meals at their desks rather than the company break room
- Numerous e-mails and/or texts sent outside of normal working hours
- Reports that they check voice mail or e-mail or perform other work in the morning before their commute
- Early arrivals or late departures
- Time records that are too uniform (e.g., around 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. every day indicating the employee isn’t recording the true in/out times
Supervisors play a key role in avoiding off-the-clock work.
- Make sure you understand your compensation-related policies and enforce them consistently.
- Do not ask nonexempt employees to perform work before their shift begins or after it ends, unless you are going to compensate them for their time.
- Require employees to get approval before working overtime or through meal breaks.
- Walk around the facility daily and check time cards and workstations to be sure nonexempt employees are not working through meal periods or staying late.
- If habitual “offenders” are logging extra time out of habit, speak to them about adjusting their routines.
- If employees are struggling to meet workload demands, redistribution or rescheduling may be in order.
- Communication is the key to spotting, understanding, and resolving wage and hour problems.
- Regular communication will make employees feel that their concerns have been heard if they cannot get their work done in the allotted time.