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November 11, 2010
Avoid These Common Wage & Hour Traps

ELT’s Scott Schneider and Littler Mendelson’s Angelo Spinola, during a recent ELT Webinar, listed a number of employer practices that can get employers in trouble with the Department of Labor (DOL) if it decides to investigate possible violations. Here’s advice from the attorneys:

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  • Automatically deducting from timesheets/payroll records for meal periods is very dangerous, because you’re assuming that every employee is breaking for that period. Instead, insist that your employees clock out for the meal and clock back in when it’s over.
  • It’s equally risky to make pay deductions for breaks of less than 30 minutes; paying an employee for a 10-minute meal interruption, but not for the other 20 minutes, is a practice DOL won’t like.
  • Use exception time reporting. If you pay an employee the amount for the same shift every day, you’ll invite DOL suspicion. You must rely on employees’ reports of when they clocked in and out, and it’s wise to pay to the minute, such as for 8:57 a.m. versus 9:03. And, have your employees certify the accuracy of your records either daily or weekly.
  • If you round, such as down for lateness or up for overtime, you may not be doing so fairly. To be on the safe side, have an accountant audit your records.
  • If you change an employee’s time record, it’s important to ask the employee to certify the accuracy of what you’ve done. He or she should initial the change.
  • If you decide to reclassify a few employees from exempt to nonexempt, do so for some other reason, such as a merger or reorganization—not because you had them misclassified. Then work with those individuals to “make them whole” over a period of 1 or 2 years.
  • Adopt and publicize clear timekeeping policies and procedures. Include one that covers this: If you “suffer and permit” an employee to work overtime, you must pay them for it, even if they were not granted permission to work the time. However, do require advance approval for overtime work.
  • Establish an anonymous hot line for reporting wage & hour complaints.
  • Train both managers and employees on your pay practices, but train them differently. For example stress with managers that they cannot require off-the-clock work.

Related article:

Do You Comply with Wage & Hour Laws?

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