With businesses transitioning to remote work platforms over the past year, the ability of employers to accurately report nonexempt workers’ remote work hours remains a significant challenge. Fortunately, the Department of Labor (DOL) is providing guidance to employers by providing a reporting procedure for unscheduled time.
One recommendation to employers is to rely on the employees’ obligation to accurately report time according to procedure, rather than sifting through IT records to verify the figures. The guidance is also consistent with established employer obligations with regard to record-keeping and payment for compensable time requirements.
New challenges to reporting work hours when telecommuting
Under DOL guidelines, if an employee fails to report unscheduled work hours using proper procedures, the employer is not required to compensate the worker for those hours or to use company resources to investigate unreported hours.
The potential for wage theft claims, however, often resides in the ambiguity of what the employer actually knows of the telecommuting employee’s work time. Because employers have records of the use of work-issued electronic devices outside of their reported hours, for example, any wage theft claim would have to challenge the standard of reasonable diligence. This standard in general does not require the employer to go to impractical efforts to obtain those records.
There are some cases, however, where the employer would be wise to check telecommuting records. When there is seasonably greater work demand, or around the time of a work deadline, it is reasonable to expect that the employer would know that his staff is working longer hours. During such times, verifying reported hours with employees makes sense.
Preventing work outside of normal hours
It is important for employers to set policies that prohibit work outside of regular hours for non-exempt employees. Non-exempt employees should understand that they must receive prior approval to work outside normal hours, and that a failure to comply with this procedural rule will result in disciplinary action.
An employer who has certain expectations of employee work hours may face wage and hour claims if the employee works off the clock.
Avoiding employment law disputes requires a comprehensive understanding of state and federal labor laws. For companies in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and throughout Pennsylvania, getting sound legal guidance on maintaining compliance with the law, establishing sound policies and contracts can help employers avoid the pitfalls of labor disputes.