Here we go again! Now the U.S. Department of Labor has jumped into the deep end of the pool by trying to help employees keep their own timekeeping record and have launched a “timesheet” application for smartphones that allows employees to record their hours worked, break times, and overtime. The application also allows users to make notes regarding their work, view a summary of work hours and projected gross pay, and email the information as an attachment. Additionally, the application provides users with access to the DOL’s information regarding wage laws and DOL contact information.
The DOL stated that the intent behind the application is to provide workers with a tool that they can use to obtain wages they believe they are owed. Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis stated that, “This app will help empower workers to understand and stand up for their rights when employers have denied their hard-earned pay.” The DOL further stated that the information in the application may be “invaluable” during an investigation by the Wage and Hour Division.
That information may also impact private litigation. As part of discovery the parties may access the information kept in this application as evidence of the employee’s claims. Employers may also explore in discovery whether the employee’s smartphone recorded the person’s location at the time they allege that they worked. That information may allow employers to confirm whether the person was at the job-site when they recorded time worked. Additionally, this move by the DOL stresses the importance of drafting and training managers to enforce clear timekeeping policies that direct employees to record all the time that they work.
In fairness to the DOL I understand why they came up with this but the concept is problematic and now opens a further door to litigation. Employees tracking their own time without the employer’s oversight will create headaches for the employer. Employees can now submit any hours that they want and argue that their records are correct and that they are being cheated. In addition, the attorneys representing these individuals will have the faked records. When they request the payroll records from the employer they will use any inconsistency as the basis for a lawsuit. In addition, and as noted above, they can use this same application to make notes regarding their work. Those notes do not have to be accurate yet when reviewed by either the DOL or an attorney it will once again create a nightmare of litigation.
As I have stated repeatedly over the past few years employers are going to have to make sure their timekeeping records are accurate, always have employees sign off on any changes made by the supervisor (on a daily basis), and have your disciplinary documentation in place for those who fail to follow the proper procedures.