In our current down economy, companies are resorting to many tactics to cut costs. One of these methods has been to require employees to engage in uncompensated work activities, otherwise known as “off the clock” work. Common examples include working during unpaid breaks, uncompensated travel time, uncompensated work after hours and/or at home, pre-shift preparation activities, donning and doffing safety gear, and the like. Oftentimes, employees who engage in uncompensated, off-the-clock work are unaware that the time is compensable under the law, and/or they have no way of accurately recording the time in the event they were to assert their legal right to be paid under minimum wage and overtime laws. In most instances, the employer is not keeping track (accurately or at all) of the uncompensated, off-the-clock time, even though it may have an obligation to do so.
To address the problem of capturing compensable time and assist workers in documenting their right to be paid for their work time, the U.S. Department of Labor recently issued a press release stating that it has launched an electronic timesheet application for smart phones. The application allows employees to independently track the hours they work and determine the wages they are owed. Through the application, users are able to add comments related to their work hours; view a summary of work hours in a daily, weekly, and monthly format; and e-mail the summary of work hours and gross pay as an attachment.
This new timekeeping app is significant because it levels the playing field in allowing workers to accurately record their working time without relying on the employer’s possibly inaccurate and/or non-existent time records. For example, for employees who are misclassified as being exempt from overtime, the employer will almost always refrain from keeping track of the employees work hours. If the employee asserts a legal claim, and a court finds that he or she was misclassified, the employee would still have the rather daunting task of articulating how many hours he or she worked during the two or three years preceding the filing of the lawsuit. Through the use of the DOL’s new timekeeping app, the employee could have an accurate record of work hours to support his or her claim for unpaid compensation, regardless of whether the employer has met its timekeeping obligations accurately.
The application is available in English and Spanish, and is currently compatible with iPhone and iPod Touch. The DOL is exploring compatibility with other smartphone platforms, such as Android and Blackberry. Also, the DOL is looking at possibly adding additional features to the app, such as tips, commissions, bonuses, deductions, holidy pay, pay for weekends, shift differentials and pay for regular days of rest.
For workers who do not have a smartphone, the DOL has a printable calendar that can be used to track work hours.
If you are not being compensated for all of your work time, or if you are being treated as exempt from overtime and want to better understand your rights, you should contact a St. Louis overtime lawyer.