How Employers Can Use the Orientation Process to Prevent Overtime Claims
Employee overtime claims are being filed in what appear to be record numbers and, given the increase in legislative activity at the federal, state, and local levels to ensure that employees are being fully paid, this trend shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
Recently, I wrote an article on how employers can use timesheet certifications to hold employees accountable to accurately report the hours that they work and, therefore, minimize claims of unpaid overtime. Employers have other opportunities to prevent overtime claims.
One such opportunity is the orientation phase. Most employers have a formal or informal orientation process, which typically includes a review of the organization's operations and some of its most important procedures and policies. Employers should use the orientation phase to explain the following:
- The importance of employees fully and accurately reporting all of the time (including overtime) that they work;
- The mechanisms (i.e., hardcopy timesheets; punching timecards, or electronic time entry) the organization has to accurately capture time worked;
- The importance of employees reviewing paystubs each week to make sure that they accurately reflect the hours reported and paid for;
- What employees should do if they have questions regarding the amounts that they have been paid, or if they believe their paycheck is not accurate for any reason; and
- Whether and under what circumstances overtime may be worked, including the nature and extent of all approvals that are required before overtime can be worked.
In addition, employers should also consider using an acknowledgement form that memorializes the employee’s understanding of the organization’s timekeeping procedures. The use of this form should operate (i) to prove a company-wide understanding of the employer’s timekeeping procedures; (ii) to ensure that employees fully understand their accountability for accurately and fully reporting all of the hours that they work; and (iii) to create a sense of shared expectations about when and under what circumstances overtime may be worked.
Overwhelmingly, employers are striving to do the right thing by fully compensating employees for all hours, including overtime hours, that they work. The use of timesheet certifications, acknowledgement forms, as well as comprehensively reviewing the organization’s timekeeping procedures during the orientation phase can go a long way to avoiding confusion about when and under what circumstances overtime may be worked, and ensuring that employees account for all of the hours that they work so that they can be fully compensated.
Marc Engel is an employment attorney and litigator at Lerch, Early & Brewer who advises managers of all types on employment issues, and provides strategies for preventing, defending, and resolving wage and hour claims. For more information about off-the-clock overtime issues, contact Marc at (301) 657-0184 or firstname.lastname@example.org.