Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez announced that the Department of Labor (DOL) will continue to be a “credible deterrent” to employers who violate wage and hour laws. Perez stated that the DOL is cracking down and will continue to be aggressive in enforcing the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Wage and hour cases reached a record high in 2010. The increase in cases is attributed partly to the weak economy and partly because the DOL hired an additional 200 Wage and Hour Field Investigators to pursue cases against employers.
The San Francisco Giants baseball team recently paid $544,715 in back wages and liquidated damages to 74 employees after a DOL investigation determined that the Major League Baseball club failed to properly pay workers over a three-year period. Investigators with the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division found violations of the FLSA’s minimum wage, overtime pay and record-keeping provisions. This is just one of many current lawsuits tied to wage and hour disputes.
INSIGHTS FOR EMPLOYERS
The following five steps should assist employers with avoiding employee claims of wage and hour violations.
1. Determine which employees are entitled to overtime pay and pay them accordingly.
The FLSA requires employers to pay employees overtime (1.5 times the regular hourly rate) for all hours worked over 40 hours in a work week unless the employee’s job duties make them exempt from overtime provisions.
2. Keep accurate payroll and time tracking records.
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently launched a smart phone app that employees can use to track their hours worked and keep their own records of pay received for time worked. According to the DOL website, “This information could prove invaluable during a Wage and Hour Division investigation when an employer has failed to maintain accurate employment records.” So remember, if the employer doesn’t keep accurate records of time worked, employees now have an app to do it themselves.
3. Create and enforce policies prohibiting employees from working “off the clock.”
FLSA lawsuits commonly include complaints that employees worked through lunch breaks, came in early, or stayed late—all without receiving compensation. When non-exempt employees are working, they must be paid, even if they were instructed to “take a lunch break” or “not to stay late.” Employees may be disciplined for failing to follow instructions regarding their work schedule, but they must be paid for time worked even if they were instructed not to work.
4. Compensate employees for breaks.
Under the FLSA, an employee who takes a break that is 20 minutes or less must be paid for the break time at their normal rate. This includes meal, religious, health, and restroom breaks—as long as the break is under 20 minutes. A common, yet dangerous, practice involves automatically deducting time for an employee’s meal break. Employers should require their employees to record their actual hours worked.
There are no federal or Idaho state laws that require employers to give their employees breaks during the work day. However, if an employer chooses to provide breaks for their employees, then there are federal and Idaho state statutes that regulate employee breaks. Union employees may have a collective bargaining agreement with their employer, where that agreement discusses the frequency and duration of employee breaks. Please refer to our blog post on September 24, 2013 to learn more about employee breaks.
5. Be sure that all appropriate personnel know and understand applicable federal and state wage and hour laws.
Please contact a Gjording Fouser lawyer at 208.336.9777 if you would like any additional information about this topic or any other employment issues facing your company.